RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colibris)
DESCRIPTION: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a tiny bird with a black throat in the adult male. The iridescent ruby color is caused by the sun reflection. The upper parts are metallic green and the under parts white. The wings are dark grey, and the tail is black. The long, thin bill is black, as well as the eyes. The legs and feet are very small and grey. Aside from the throat color, sexes are similar. Male juveniles are similar to the female. This bird is around 8 cm long (3 inches), which makes hummingbirds the smallest of birds.
NAME: The English name ‘Hummingbird’ refers to the ‘humming’ sound of the bird’s wings while flying, especially when stationary in the air. The Latin genus name ‘Archilochus’ is from Greek and would mean roughly ‘first among the birds’. As for the Latin species name ‘colibris’, the word means ‘snake’, which according to Choate is ‘so inappropriate that a misspelling by Linnaeus is more likely’.
HABITAT: Forest edges, gardens, parks, and other semi-open areas with nectar-rich flowers.
DIET: Nectar for the most part, especially from red or orange tubular flowers for which the bird’s bill and long tongue are adapted; also sap from Sapsucker wells. Adults complement this diet with tiny insects.
NESTING: The nest is built in a tree by the female. It is a well-camouflaged cup-like structure. Two white eggs are laid, incubated by the female. She’s also the one parent feeding the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: This hummingbird is the only species to be found on the eastern side of North America, starting from the south part of Canada. It migrates mainly to Mexico and Central America. For more information on its migration see this page.
ON PEI: The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only one of its family to visit Prince Edward Island in the summer. It is also a late comer and an early goer. Island Nature Trust has a ‘Hummingbird Project‘ with information on which plants attract these birds.
CONSERVATION: This species has increased its population in the last few decades, perhaps partly due to the popularity of feeding them. It is not considered at risk.
NOTES: Hummingbirds are fascinating birds with many unique features in the world of birds. For more information see this website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird. Hummingbirds are species endemic to the Americas.
FEEDING HUMMINGBIRDS: More people are now providing nectar-rich plants for hummingbirds in gardens, as well as artificial nectar. Here’s a website with helpful information on red dye in hummingbird nectar: https://www.thespruce.com/is-red-dye-harmful-to-hummingbirds-386578, plus many more articles on related topics listed at the bottom of that article.
PREDATION: Adult hummingbirds are generally too nimble to be predated upon, but the same can’t be said for their young. However, a study has shown that praying mantises can successfully catch adults, often while they’re drinking at nectar feeders installed for them by humans. The irony is that those insects are used in gardens as a pest control.
HUMMINGBIRD BANDING: There is an organization in Canada dedicated to hummingbird research and banding.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird
REFERENCES: http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/birds/ruby-throated-hummingbird.html (Hinterland Who’s Who)
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritime Breeding Bird Atlas)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/ruby-throated-hummingbird (Missouri Department of Conservation)
The first video below shows a male ruby-throated hummingbird at the nectar feeder, with the ‘ruby’ reflections of its throat clearly visible when it moves.
The next video shows a slight pumping movement of its body when the bird drinks the nectar. The tip of its tongue is also visible at times.