RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colibris)

Hummingbirds are the smallest of birds, and the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only one of its family to visit PEI in the summer. It is a late comer and an early goer too, probably for lack of food in its breeding area, but also because of the long journey between its wintering area and its summer range (including some 900 miles or 1,450 km nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico). For more information on its migration see the Texas page on this website.

In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in providing nectar-rich plants for hummingbirds in gardens, as well as offering them, at the beginning of the season before nectar producing flowers are in bloom, artificial nectar in specially designed feeders, which allow them to sip the syrup with their long, slender bills.

The throat of the male ruby-throated hummingbird is actually black, as can be seen below, but it displays a red iridescence in the sun, depending on the light orientation. Otherwise the sexes are similar, with green on top and white undersides mainly. A unique feature in the bird world that hummingbirds possess is their capacity to fly like insects, i.e. backwards, sideways, and vertically, while ‘humming’ with their wings, which are barely visible in flight.

PREDATION: Adult hummingbirds are generally too nimble to be predated upon, but the same can’t be said for their young.  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.

Conservation: The ruby-throated hummingbird is apparently not the only hummingbird to breed in Canada. There are banding programs to help in their conservation, and one such banding session was held in PEI in July 2017.

Ruby-throated hummingbird female on scarlet runner bean string - Stratford, PEI - 2009 - © Denise Motard
Ruby-throated hummingbird female on scarlet runner bean string – Stratford, PEI – 2009 – © Denise Motard
Female ruby-throated hummingbird - Grand Tracadie, PEI - Aug. 24, 2016 - by Matt Beardsley
Female ruby-throated hummingbird – Grand Tracadie, PEI – Aug. 24, 2016 – by Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, immature male, at feeder - Grand Tracadie, PEI - Aug. 20, 2017 - © Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, immature male, at feeder – Grand Tracadie, PEI – Aug. 20, 2017 – © Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated hummingbird hovering in front of scarlet runner beans - Stratford, PEI - 2008 - © Denise Motard
Ruby-throated hummingbird hovering in front of scarlet runner beans – Stratford, PEI – 2008 – © Denise Motard
Male ruby-throated hummingbird - Grand Tracadie, PEI - Aug. 17, 2016 - by Matt Beardsley
Male ruby-throated hummingbird – Grand Tracadie, PEI – Aug. 17, 2016 – by Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated hummingbird sipping nectar from scarlet runner bean flowers - Straatford, PEI 2008 - © Denise Motard
Ruby-throated hummingbird sipping nectar from scarlet runner bean flowers – Straatford, PEI 2008 – © Denise Motard
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, immature male - Grand Tracadie, PEI - Aug. 20, 2017 - © Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, immature male – Grand Tracadie, PEI – Aug. 20, 2017 – © Matt Beardsley

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.

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