Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris

A female ruby-throated hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). Photo © Greg Schneider / Getty Images.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is a species of hummingbird that breeds primarily in eastern North America and spends its winters in southern Mexico, and Central America. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are also rare winter visitors in parts of south Florida, the Carolinas, and along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.

Male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds differ in their appearance in several ways. Males are more vibrantly colored than females.

Males have metallic emerald-green plumage on their back and metallic red feathers on their throat (this patch of feathers is referred to as a "gorget"). Females are duller in color, with less vibrant green feathers on their back and no red gorget, their throat and belly plumage is a dull grey or white. Young ruby-throated hummingbirds of both sexes resemble the plumage of adult females.

During the breeding season, ruby-throated hummingbirds are higlhy territorial. This territorial behavior is reduced during other times of the year. The size of the territories that males establish during the breeding season varies based on the availability of food. Males and females do not form a pair bond and remain together only during courtship and mating.

When ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate between their breeding and wintering grounds, some individuals fly across the Gulf of Mexico while others follow the coastline.

Males start their migration before females and juveniles (males and females) follow on after the females.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar and small insects. They occasionally supplement their diet with tree sap if nectar is not readily available. When gathering nectar, ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer to feed from red or orange flowers such as red buckeye, trumpet creeper, and red morning glory.

They often feed while hovering at the flower but also land to drink nectar from a conveniently located perch.

Like all hummingbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds have small feet that are not well suited to perching or hopping from branch to branch. For this reason, ruby-throated hummingbirds use flight as their primary means of locomotion. They are superb aerialists and are capable of hovering with wingbeat frequencies of up to 53 beats per second. They can fly in a straight line, up, down, backwards, or hover in place.

The flight feathers of ruby-throated hummingbirds consists of 10 full-length primary feathers, 6 secondary feathers, and 10 rectrices. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds, they weigh between about 0.1 and 0.2 ounces and measure between 2.8 to 3.5 inches in length. Their wingspan is about 3.1 to 4.3 inches wide.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only species of hummingbird to breed in eastern North America. The breeding range of ruby-throated hummingbirds is the largest of all the species of hummingbirds in North America.

Classification

Ruby-throated hummingbirds and swifts are classified within the following taxonomic hierarchy:

Animals > Chordates > Vertebrates > Tetrapods > Amniotes > Birds > Hummingbirds and Swifts > Hummingbirds > Ruby-throated hummingbird

References

Weidensaul, Scott, T. R. Robinson, R. R. Sargent and M. B. Sargent. 2013. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/204

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Klappenbach, Laura. "Ruby-Throated Hummingbird." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/ruby-throated-hummingbird-130220. Klappenbach, Laura. (2017, February 9). Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ruby-throated-hummingbird-130220 Klappenbach, Laura. "Ruby-Throated Hummingbird." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ruby-throated-hummingbird-130220 (accessed January 16, 2018).