ruby throated hummingbirds glisten in the sunlight while visiting your flowers

The lively little Ruby throated hummingbirds inhabit the eastern portion of the United States. In fact they are the only type of hummingbirds seen in the east. They range from the gulf coast all the way up into south Canada.

They bless us with their beauty and energy during the summer months. Then each fall they fly across the Caribbean to Mexico or Central America for the winter. A few spend the winter in south Florida.

The Ruby throated hummingbird is seen all across the eastern United StatesRuby throated Hummingbird, male
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay

identifying the ruby throated hummingbird

  • This hummingbird gets its name from the male's ruby-red gorget, his throat. In the sunlight his throat glistens a gorgeous red.

The top of his head, sides and back also have iridescent feathers that glisten green in the sunlight. Without direct sunlight his colors looks dark.

His primary wing feathers and tail are dark. There is a notch in the center of his tail. The beak and legs are dark.

Just below his ruby throat, the top part of his chest is white before a light-colored belly.

  • The female Ruby throated hummingbird has a whitish throat and chest. Sometimes there are fine speckles on her throat.

Her head and back are iridescent green like the males. Her tail, large wing feathers, beak and legs are also dark.

Her tail is not notched, but the tips of her tail feathers are white on the outside corners.

  • Juvenile Ruby throated Hummingbird males look very similar to the females.

But before they grow their entire set of feathers, you can see their white fuzzy bottoms, identifying them as youngsters.

More about identifying hummingbirds

how big are the ruby throats?

  • These birds are not very big at all. In fact they are tiny, measuring from 3 1/2" to 3 3/4". They only weigh a half an ounce.

They get around very fast for such little birds. Their wings beat up to 50 times a second and that is what makes their humming sound.

These tiny birds are the acrobats of the bird world. They are able to fly forward, backward, hover and even fly upside down for a short time.

All their high activity uses a lot of food. They eat every 10 to 15 minutes and consume 2 to 3 times their weight in food every day.

Ruby throat femaleFemale Ruby-throat
Image by Starzshine from Pixabay

what do the ruby throated hummingbirds eat?

  • Their diet consists of flower nectar. They may visit from 1,000 to 2,000 flowers a day.
  • They also eat very small spiders and insects for protein. They can catch flying insects out of the air.
  • They have been seen eating tree sap out of holes made larger birds.

They live in yards, open wooded areas and places that have the flowers they like.

Trumpet vine is one of the hummingbirds favorite flowersThey like trumpet vines.

They are particularly attracted to red or orange flowers. But best of all they like trumpet shaped flowers because they hold more nectar.

Plant some of their favorite flowers like, petunia, bee balm, trumpet vine, fuchsias or honeysuckle.

If there aren't enough flowers for them, they are more than happy to come to our feeders. You can make hummingbird food and put up a feeder for them.

where do they nest?

  • The female Ruby throated Hummingbird will look for a horizontal branch about 10' to 40' off the ground. Often the nest will be over water to help them stay cooler.

She spends 6 to 10 days building a nest. The nest will roughly be the size of a ping pong ball. The male does not help with any nest building or baby care.

She builds the nest using small leaves, grass, fur, moss, lichens and spider webs. The spider webs enable the nest to stretch larger as the babies grow.

When the nest is complete she will lay 2 eggs a 1/2" in size. The eggs will hatch in 12 to 14 days.

  • The tiny birds are naked and blind when they hatch. Mom feeds them regurgitated insects and spiders mixed with nectar.

They grow fast and after three weeks they will start exercising their wings on the side of the nest. After they leave the nest mom will continue to feed them for a few days until they are able to find food on their own.

Hummingbird babies in the nest, they are ready to take off soonHummingbird babies ready to leave the nest soon
Image by sharonjoy17 from Pixabay

In the fall, August to September depending on exactly where they live, the adults head south for the winter.

The juveniles hang back and eat and then head south weeks after the older hummingbirds have already left.

  • It's very important to keep your feeders up late in the fall to feed the migrating Ruby-throats, at least until the end of September.

Then in the spring March to April, they all fly back to the same area they left in the fall. They remember where the feeders and flowers were from last year. 

  • This tiny bird, just over 3 inches big, flies 500-600 miles south to Mexico or Central America for the winter. Their flight across the Caribbean takes from 18 to 22 hours.

Then in the spring they fly the long way back to the area where they were hatched. They return to the same area and sometimes to the same nest and feeders they used the year before.

how long do hummingbirds live?

Many hummingbirds live on the average of four to five years. The Ruby-throats may live from seven to nine years.

They come back to the same place each year, mostly to the area where they hatched. They remember where they found their favorite flowers and feeders the year before.

There was a female Ruby-throat hummer in Florida that would tell me if I didn't have their feeder up in time. She would fly around looking in the window where her feeder was supposed to be hanging.

What amazing birds they are!

more about hummingbirds

  • Types of Hummingbirds

    What hummingbirds visit the United States? 15 types of hummingbirds with photos, information and identification tips, black chinned, ruby throated hummingbirds

  • Hummingbird Flowers

    Planting a garden with hummingbird flowers will attract the hummingbirds. 20 flowers for hummingbirds that will bring the joy of hummingbirds to your yard.

  • Hummingbird Facts

    Amazing hummingbird facts about their metabolism, hummingbird migration, hummingbird nests, flight, how do hummingbirds eat, colors, what is torpor and a gorget?

  • Attracting Hummingbirds

    Tried and true methods for attracting hummingbirds, invite these amazing birds to your garden with hummingbird feeders, nectar flowers, safe habitat and water.

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