SIB “Bird of the Week” – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird:
Family – Trochilidae
Species – Archilochus colubris
Length: 3 – 3.75”; Wingspan: 4.25 – 4.5”; Weight: 0.1 oz

(Submitted by Ron Schlidge)

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Bob Hider
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Bob Hider

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:

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.

SIB Presents: The Secret and Swampy Lives of Wood Storks

Date: Tuesday July 12, 2022
Registration starts 7:00pm. Program starts 7:30pm
Location: Live Oak Hall, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Program Fee: Members $0, Guests $5.00
Attendance: Limited to 100 members

There is no longer a mask requirement at the Seabrook Island Lake House, although you are welcome to wear one if you choose. Social distancing is recommended but also is not required. SIB will provide wine or bottled water at this event but feel free to bring your own beverage or snack of choice.

If you are not a 2022 SIB Member,
you can first join/renew for $10/year

Emerging technologies are providing windows into many unknown aspects of Wood Stork behavior and population dynamics. Dr. Kristina Ramstad, Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology & Geology at the University of South Carolina, will discuss research she and her students are doing at their USC Aiken lab – drones to estimate storks’ hatching success; genomics techniques to assess migratory behavior, mating system and population structure in storks. They’re also working to determine if Wood Storks are promiscuous or nest parasites, how populations are defined spatially, and what makes storks stay put versus migrate to new nesting colony locations. Outcomes of their work will inform conservation and management of storks, particularly under current climate change scenarios.

 The program is limited to 100 SIB members. SIPOA COVID protocol will be followed.

Questions? Email us at: 

Meet the speaker: Kristina Ramstad Associate Professor, Vertebrate Biology Department of Biology & Geology University of South Carolina Aiken

Kristina is originally from Washington State and studied sockeye salmon in Alaska for both her MSc (University of Washington) and PhD (University of Montana) research. Her postdoc work took her to New Zealand, where she spent eight years studying conservation genetics of kiwi before returning to the States and taking up her current role at USCA.  Her work draws on genomic sequencing techniques and field based ecological studies to address fundamental questions in evolution, ecology and demography of at-risk species. Her current obsession is the wading birds of the steamy and mysterious swamps of the US South.

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