Interesting Facts about the Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) - male at Bee Balm (Monarda)

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, one of the smallest hummingbird species, can only grow to a length of 3 to 3.5 inches and weight of about 3 grams. Due to its small size, the bird is sometimes mistaken for a large insect.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

It is considered as the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern North America. It is also the most widespread among all hummingbird species.

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird has only about 940 feathers in average, which are all replaced every year. For this, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds hold the record for having the least number of feathers of any bird.

The thin, asymmetrical, and slightly curved primary feather of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird allows it to achieve an optimal speed when flying. It can fly straight to a speed of 25 miles per hour, and 40 miles per hour during courtship dives.

Aside from being precision flyers, Ruby-throated Hummingbird also boasts an average record wingbeat frequency of 53 times per second. However, during courtship, this frequency soars up to about 200 times per second. They would fly in perfect arcs, then dive up and down vertically in front on the subject female.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s very short legs prevent it from other means of moving, such as walking or hopping. Indeed, it can only shuffle along a perch. It scratches its head and neck by raising its food up and over its wing.

Despite its small size, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird can fly over 3000 kilometers from the eastern United States, crossing over 1000 kilometers of the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Central America in just one flight.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like to eat on red or orange flowers because of their high sugar content. This does not mean however that the sugar water in hummingbird feeders should be colored. Similar to many other birds, hummingbirds also have a good color vision, which allows them to look into the ultraviolet spectrum that humans can’t see.

Due to their solitary nature, male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds already leave the female right after copulation. There is no bond that is formed between pairs. Indeed, they only spend time together during courtship and mating, which only runs in just a matter of few days or weeks.

Most of the time, these birds place their nests on a branch of a deciduous or coniferous tree. However, because of increased human habitation, they have adapted to nesting on loops of chain, wire, and extension cords.

While young hummingbirds are generally in a helpless condition upon birth, they are already fully-grown upon fledging the nest.

While most hummingbirds die within their first year, there are significant numbers of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that live an average of 3 years or so. The oldest known Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a lifespan of 9 years and 1 month.

Sometimes, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is mistaken for a Hummingbird Moth, which, despite flying slower than the hummingbird, also exhibits a rapid wing pattern. Both are so fast moving, making it so difficult to see them.

These are just some of the most interesting facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. It’s interesting to know that these birds have different characteristics that distinguish it from other hummers. A close look at these birds will surely make you fall in love with them.