Family – Trochilidae
Species – Archilochus colubris
Length: 3 – 3.75”; Wingspan: 4.25 – 4.5”; Weight: 0.1 oz
(Submitted by Ron Schlidge)
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only hummer known by most Easterners and has a range that covers most of eastern North America. Both sexes have glittering green crown and upperparts, and the underparts are grayish to white. Males have black faces and a deep red to orange-red throat or gorget. The humming of its wings is clearly discernible from a distance. Their wings beat up to 75 per second.
They feed primarily on nectar but take some insects and spiders, also sap from sapsucker drill wells. In courtship flight, males make a huge 180-degree arcs back and forth, emitting a buzzing sound at its lowest point. Males often arrive on breeding grounds well ahead of females. These birds are strongly attracted to the color red as are many other hummers.
The nest of the hummingbird is very small and made from soft plant down, fireweed, milkweed thistles and leaves. They are a solitary breeder and generally lay two white eggs the size of a pea with incubation 11 to 16 days by the female. Altricial young stay in nest 20 – 22 days and are fed by the female. They have 1-3 broods per year.
Ruby-throated Hummers feed on red columbine in spring; salvia, trumpet or coral honeysuckle, and bee balm later in the year. They also fed on jewelweed, phlox, petunias, lilies, trumpet creeper, Siberian peatree, nasturtium, cone-shaped red flowers and sugar water.
You can mix your own sugar water by using a 4:1 ratio of water to sugar (ex: 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar). Red food dyes added to sugar water may harm birds. Always replace the sugar water in your feeders at least once a week and maybe more in the hot days of summer.
A group of Hummingbirds has many collective nouns, including a “bought”, “glittering”, “hover”, “shimmer” and a “tune” of hummingbirds.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common on Seabrook in the summer. They can be seen over the beach, amid the dunes, and in the myrtles along the boardwalks. They are also around the estuaries and edges wherever they may find nectar-producing plants and small insects. If you have a home you might try a feeder – they will come. A very few might spend the winter. A feeder in winter might also attract other vagrant species such as the Rufous Hummingbird or Black-chinned Hummingbird.
(See the range map following the photographs below.)
If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All About Birders: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Birds of Seabrook Island: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents. When possible we will use photographs taken by our members. Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.