Image courtesy of Powder Mill Bird Banding (Rector, PA)
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is probably the best-known of all hummingbirds. The male is brightly colored with an iridescent green head, back, wings, and tails. Underparts are white and the throat (gorget) is bright red (although it can appear black in some lighting). Females and immatures have white throats. The bill is long, straight, and dark. Measuring about three inches in length, the ruby-throat is the only hummingbird that normally breeds east of the Mississippi River.
DIET: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird drinks nectar from flowers. It will also occasionally take insects and tree sap. Young hummingbirds are fed insects by their parents. Hummingbirds will also readily take sugar water from garden feeders.
HABITAT: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is found in mixed and deciduous forests, urban parks, and suburban gardens.
RANGE: The Ruby-throat breeds throughout the eastern and central United States (generally east of the Great Plains or 10th Meridian). It also breeds through much of southern Canada. The Ruby-throat is highly migratory and spends the winter in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America.
REPRODUCTION: Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird are polygamous, which means they take more than one mate. Males are extremely aggressive toward one another when staking out a territory and searching for a mate in spring. During courtship displays, the male’s wings may beat up to 200 times per second. Females construct a small nest 10-20 feet above the ground. Nests are built with spider’s silk, lichens, and plant materials. Females lay two tiny white eggs. Young hummingbirds are fed every one to three hours. They leave the nest after three or four weeks. Female hummingbirds may produce multiple broods (sets of eggs) during the breeding season.
BEHAVIOR: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are solitary birds and only come into contact during mating season. Like many hummingbird species, Ruby-throats may enter hypothermic torpor (a temporary hibernation in which body temperature drops for the purpose of conserving energy) during migration on cold nights.Did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards?