Ruby-throated Hummingbird Bio
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
Range: Southern Canada to the Gulf, and from the Atlanta to the Great Plains
Nest: on a small limb
Eggs per clutch: 2
Food: nectar, insects
In the United States there are 16 species of hummingbirds. The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species on the Eastern side of the country.
The adult male ruby-throated hummingbird has an emerald green back and a ruby red throat. The tail on a male forms a v-shape and is long. The bill of an adult male is shorter than that of a female. The female does not have a ruby red throat and has a shorter rounded tail.
A ruby-throated hummingbird can fly in any direction, including backward and upside down. The flapping of the wings of the hummingbird forms a small figure-8. A hummingbird can flap its wings 50 times a second and up to 200 times a second during some courtship rituals.
Except for perching, hummingbirds do not use their feet. When lifting from a perch they do not push off. The birds rise entirely by flapping their wings. If a hummingbird wanted to move a few inches he would not walk but fly.
Hummingbirds feed on nectar and insects. The tongue of a hummingbird is longer then the bill. The small membranes on the side of the tongue soak up nectar. Nectar is collected from flower and tree sap. The long bill of a hummingbird if perfect for probing into tubular flowers. Insects and pollen are consumed to provide protein to build muscles. Groves on the side of the tongue also allow hummingbirds to catch insects in the air.
Hummingbirds are attracted to nectar producing plants, trees, shrubs and vines and are often found in gardens and open woods.
During spring, hummingbirds migrate north from Central America and Mexico. Hummingbirds travel 18 miles a day when migrating north. Most appear to migrate over the Gulf of Mexico which takes 18 to 24 hours. They migrate during the day and by themselves.
The male tends to return from migration earlier than the female. He will seek out areas with nectar-rich flowers and trees. Here he will establish his territory, usually a quarter acre or more. Courtship involves making visual displays and is very brief. Once mated, the male leaves and the female does all of the work on the nest. She builds the nest with plant fibers, bud scales and spider webs which is then camouflaged with dead leafs. The nest is tiny, about the size of a walnut and is capable of keeping moisture out. It also is flexible so that it will stretch as the young birds grow.
The female will lay 2 white eggs that are laid 2 to 3 days apart. The eggs are about the size of a black-eyed pea. Incubation by the female is started after the last egg is laid. She will spend 60 to 80 percent of the day incubating the eggs. The young will hatch 12 -14 days later.
When the eggs hatch, the female will brood the young birds until they are able to maintain their own body temperature. This usually takes 12 days. The young birds are fed 1 to 3 times an hour with nectar and insects that are regurgitated from the mother's crop. The female keeps the nest clean by removing the feces of the young birds.
Around 34 days after hatching the young birds will take their first flight. They begin by lifting their wings and exercising them. The first flight usually is fifty feet or more. After leaving the nest, fledgings are fed by the mother for another 10 days. The life span of a Rudy-throated Hummingbird is 3-5 years.