More on Ruby-throated

What do Ruby-throated hummingbirds look like?

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are basically metallic green in colour above, with gray below. The adult male has a slightly forked tail. He has feathers on his throat that may appear to be black but they flash red or orange in the sunlight, thus giving the bird its name. Females have white throats. Their tails are not forked and have white spots on the corners. Young birds resemble the females.  

Where do Ruby-throated hummingbirds live?

From spring to fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be found from Southern Canada and south to Florida. It is the only hummingbird that nests east of the Mississippi River and the east-west range extends all the way to the Great Plains. Hummingbirds migrate to warmer areas in the fall and spend the winter there. They may go to Southern Texas, North-Central Mexico or south to Costa Rica.

They prefer to live in areas where there are many flowers available. They live in gardens, woods, orchards and the margins of forests. They prefer to live and nest in trees at least five to twenty feet above the ground. They like down-sloping branches with leaves overhead to shelter them. They prefer to sleep on small twigs at the ends of branches, where no predators can reach them

What do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds eat?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds eat insects and nectar from many flowering plants. They are attracted to the colour red. Some of their favourite flowers to feed from are columbines, salvia, vines (trumpet, coral and honeysuckle) and bee balm. They also enjoy tree sap. Some of the insects they eat are small beetles, weevils, flies, gnats, mosquitoes, aphids, flying ants, wasps and spiders. They are often seen picking insects from spider webs. Hummingbirds readily visit feeders in back yards to drink nectar. While wintering in Costa Rica, they survive the months of January to March (when there are no flowers to provide nectar) by eating mostly insects.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and their young:

  • Hummingbirds do not form pair bonds or raise young together. Males and females only socialize through the courtship and mating periods, after which the female takes over the responsibilities of nest building and parenthood.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest from March to July and may raise anywhere from one to three broods of young throughout that time.
  • The female builds a delicate cup-shaped nest using soft down from ferns, milkweed, fireweed or thistles as well as young oak leaves. She weaves the materials together with silk from spider webs or from tent caterpillar nests and decorates the outside with bits of moss and lichen. The completed nest is the size of a walnut.
  • The female lays two white eggs which are the size of small bean seeds.
  • The eggs are incubated for sixteen days. The hatchlings are born with their eyes closed. Their skin is a greyish colour and they are naked except for small tufts of down. They resemble very small caterpillars. The mother feeds them by regurgitating insects and nectar deep into their throats.
  • The hatchling birds grow quickly and match their mother's weight in one and a half weeks.
  • The young are ready to leave the nest when they are twenty to twenty-two days old.
  • The mother teaches her young to recognize foods and they are soon independent of her. While they may spend some time together while learning, the young soon disperse. Hummingbirds are solitary birds.

Does this hummingbird need help?

  • At night, hummingbirds enter a state known as 'torpor'. They lower their body temperatures and heart rates to conserve energy. In the morning, it will take a hummingbird a half-hour or so to come out of its torpor. If you see a hummingbird sitting very still on a branch early in the morning, it may be because it has not come out of its torpor. Watch carefully. If the bird has not begun to move or feed after a few hours, call a wildlife rehabilitator. Some birds, when weak or cold, cab be found laying on the ground, beneath a feeder or even sitting on a feeder unable to feed. Again, call an experienced rehabilitator for advice.
  • If a nest in unattended for more than a few hours, the mother may have met with an accident. Because of their feeding requirements, you should call a rehabber.
  • Any bird who has a wing drooping, dragging or sticking out at a funny angle is cause for concern.
  • Any visible signs of injury are a cause for concern. This includes damaged beaks, any signs of bleeding, damaged feathers, broken legs and broken or dislocated wings.
  • Sometimes hummingbirds hit windows and knock themselves out. If the bird does not regain consciousness within a short time, there is cause for concern.
  • Assume that a hummingbird needs help when all the other birds have migrated and it's not a 'normal' time to see hummingbirds in your area. You might check with a local birdwatchers group or naturalists' group to find out about migration times in your area, but if they agree that the sighting is abnormal, contact a rehabber.


What will I do if the hummingbird needs help?

  • Ask an adult to help you.
  • If the bird is on the ground or unmoving at a feeder, carefully pick it up by placing your hand gently around its shoulders. Have ready a small cardboard box with small air holes so that the bird can breathe. Line the box with a clean towel. Make sure to use one that has no holes, ravels or tatters that the bird can get caught in. Close the lid and take it indoors. Keep it in a dark and quiet place. Do NOT attempt to hold, comfort or feed the bird. Do not offer it food and do not attempt to put liquids in its mouth. Do not put food, nectar or liquid in the box.
  • Call a rehabber immediately. Quick response to an emergency may save a life.
  • If the bird is perched in a tree or you are concerned about a nest, call a rehabber.











 Hummingbird Quiz

1) In winter,  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live in:

A.     Igloos

B.     Spain

C.     Texas, Mexico and Costa Rica.

D.  the New England states.

2) Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are found:

A.       In Europe

B.     In Alaska

C.     In shopping centres

D. Through most of Canada and the United States


3) Hummingbirds eat

A.       French fries

B.     Nectar from flowering plants

C.     Mostly birdseed.

D.  Grain from farmers' fields


4) When sleeping, hummingbirds:

A.      Snore

B.     Sometimes raid the refrigerator

C.     Lower their temperature and heart rate

D.  Walk in their sleep


5) Hummingbird nests:

A.   Are lined with newspaper

B.     Are smaller than your thumb

C.     Have little lights in front to help them see

D. Are often used by other birds


How did you do?  If you
can stand on your head, you 
can find out!


Hummingbirds sip nectar

They think that's where it's at!

In winter though... wouldn't you know?

It's ant and fly and gnat.


I'd like to be a hummingbird...

I think I'd like to try it.

I'll leap and dart and twist and  jump,

But ugh! That winter diet!



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