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Ruby Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris      

(Order: Apodiformes; Family Trochilidae)





Diagnosis:  Adult Males: are Emerald green on their back, they have an iridescent ruby red gorget (throat), will have gray flanks with forked tail with no white and is smaller than the female.  Adult Females: Is emerald green on their back, white rounded throat and has a tail with white tips.  She is larger than the male and has a longer bill.  The average length of an adult is 8.9 cm and weight is 3.1 grams.    Juveniles:  male and female look alike until several months the male will develop some red spots on his gorget.  Ruby’s have very short legs, they don’t really walk or hop they shuffle! 

Adult History:  Ruby’s prefer specific feeder location and like red and orange flowers, they can see in color and can see in Ultraviolet.  They actively defend their feeding territories from other hummingbirds as well as other birds.  They tolerate juveniles for a short time at the feeder and then they are treated as an adult.   Ruby does have to eat twice its body weight to keep up with their high metabolism due to wing beat and energetic movement.   They are most known for their flight speed, it can be anywhere from 48.2 km (resting) to 101.3 km diving.  Their wings beat about 53 times per second.  Ruby’s molt once a year and it can take several months.  They love to bathe, and will use any type of water whether it’s wet moss or a waterfall.  Ruby’s make an excited, high-pitched squeak and twitter sound.  They migrate up to 500 miles to Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean Islands.  Males have been known to leave before the females in both directions.  They have also been known to put on  an extra 50% of their body weight in the last two weeks before migrating.  Courtship is brief and female raises the young alone in a small walnut sized nest made of bud scales attached to tree limbs with spider silk, lichens camouflage the outside and the inside is lined with dandelion, cattails or thistles.  The nest can be reused next year and stretches as the young hatch.  Usually there are 2 white pea sized eggs and are laid 2-3 days apart.  The female will incubate the eggs for about 60-80% of the day for 12-16 days.  They remain in the nest for 14-31 days depending on the availability of food.  The fledglings are usually larger than their mom and she loses weight raising them.  Ruby’s average life span is 3-5 years.

Adult Distribution:  Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are throughout the Eastern to the mid-western North America from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  They spend the winters in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.  Some Ruby’s remain around the Gulf States and the outer banks of North Carolina.

Spring Hummingbird Migration:

Adult Habitat:  Ruby’s like open forests, grasslands, gardens, scrub vegetation and often near water.  The nest the female builds is anywhere from 1 m – 9 m above the ground, usually in a fork of a tree.

Adult Diet:  Adults love to feed on the nectar and sap of flowers and occasionally eat insect and spiders.  They have been known to frequent feeders with sugar water around people’s homes.




Ruby Throated Migration. Photo



All About Birds:


National Geographic:




Alsop III, Fred J. 2003.  Backyard Birds of North America. Crane Hill Publishers, Birmingham, Al.


Heidcamp, Arnette. 1990. A Hummingbird in My House, “A Story of Squeak”. Crown Publishers, New York, NY.


Wilson, James D. 2001. Common Birds of North America, Midwest Edition. Willow Creek Press, Minocqua, WI.


Submitted by:  Tammey Shimon, July 2013.




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