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Description of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird

BREEDING MALE

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird has green upperparts, whitish underparts, a white spot behind the eye, and tail that is green at the base, black in the center, and white at the tip.

Males have a red throat that can look either blackish or brilliant red, depending on the lighting.  Length: 4 in.  Wingspan: 4 in.

ruby throated hummingbird male gl
Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Female

Similar to males, but with a white throat.

ruby throated hummingbird female gl
Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Juveniles resemble females.

Habitat

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are found in woodlands or gardens.

Diet

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds primarily eat nectar from flowers or hummingbird feeders.  They also consume some insects and spiders when feeding young.

Behavior

Hummingbirds are capable of hovering in midair and flying backwards, skills that are necessary to feed on flower nectar.

Individuals are often aggressive and possessive around feeders, chasing other hummingbirds away.

Range

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird occurs in the eastern U.S. and parts of central Canada, and is the only hummingbird that breeds east of the Great Plains. The species winters in Mexico and Central America.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Young hummingbirds are fed through regurgitation by the female.

Despite their small size, many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico twice each year.

Vocalizations

A sharp, sputtering chase call is often heard around feeders.

Attracting

Attract by planting nectar-rich plants and hummingbird feeders with sugar water.  Use one part sugar to four parts water, do not add food coloring.

Nesting

The nest is a very small cup of mosses, plant down, and spider webs, and is covered with lichens for camouflage.  It is usually placed 10-20 feet high on a horizontal or downward-sloping limb.

Number:
Usually very small 2 eggs.

Color:

White.

Incubation and fledging:
Young hatch at about 12-16 days and leave the nest in 18-22 days.