Ruby Throated Hummingbird Facts

While about 300 species of hummingbirds flit about the Western Hemisphere, only the Ruby Throated Hummingbird is known to breed east of the Mississippi River. The tiny bird’s range extends further than that of any other hummer. It nests in areas west of the Mississippi and north of the Canadian border.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

How To Identify A Ruby Throated Hummingbird
The Eastern US’s jeweled hummers are easiest to identify by their actions because they move too quickly to get a good look. Their wings can beat about 53 times a second. A hummingbird darts and hovers, rarely perching, above brightly colored flowers to sip nectar. They prefer red and orange flowers and are territorial, not being above a brawl or spirited chase.

The Ruby Throat has an iridescent green upper side that may present a golden sparkle in the sunshine. If one perches, the wings are noticeably darker. Ruby Throats are just 3-plus inches, so on the smallish side as hummingbirds go. The famous red throat appears only on the males — the mature males. That throat, too, might glisten in the sunshine, if you have a good view.

A good set of binoculars or a feeder very near a window is almost a requirement to spot these other descriptive features:
– Straight black bill,
– Dark eye with a white spot behind it,
– Black chin on the male (Female chins are white, and their throats are creamy with gray streaks. Young birds enjoy the camouflage coloring similar to the female’s.)

Habitat Ruby Throats Frequent
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are “woodland” creatures. They live near forest edges and enjoy visits to gardens. Favorite flowers include a variety of vines such as trumpet, coral and honeysuckle, as well as salvia, columbine and bee balm. Those long slender black bills are also great for sipping tree sap.

Normally, these tiny gems nest in a tree, 10-20 feet from the ground. Nests are covered in dead leaves and lichens and designed to expand as the baby birds grow.

The parents are together only for courtship and mating. The female builds the nest and cares for the young. Usually there are two tiny white eggs per brood, and she raises two or sometimes three sets a year. She loves a new house and is busy not just raising her babies but building a new nest at the same time.

A female was captured in West Virginia for banding, then recaptured for study more than 9 years later. Naturally, exact ages of most individual birds are not known, but research indicates that females tend to live longer.

These tiny jeweled flyers are short-time visitors to their northern breeding grounds. They may arrive in the southern most part of their range in late February or early March but not reach their nesting grounds in the northern U.S.A. or Canada until late May or early June. They often start the long trek south in early to mid-August, with the males being the first to leave.

Their return is eagerly awaited each year.