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Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

Hummingbirds hover in the air while they sip nectar from red, tubular flowers such as cardinal flower. (Jason Means/Flickr)
Hummingbirds hover in the air while they sip nectar from red, tubular flowers such as cardinal flower. (Jason Means/Flickr)

The ruby-throated hummingbird is a tiny, iridescent green bird that visits forests, swamps and gardens throughout the Chesapeake Bay region from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

Ruby-throated hummingbirds grow to about 3 inches in length. They have an iridescent green head and back, a white belly and a needle-like bill. Males have a metallic, ruby red throat and a forked tail; females have a grayish throat and their tail is squared with a white tip.

Habitat:

Forests, orchards, freshwater swamps and backyard gardens. Usually lives alone, generally only coming together with another hummingbird to mate.

Range:

Visits the Chesapeake Bay watershed from late spring through early autumn. Flies nearly 1,000 miles round-trip each year as it migrates to and from its breeding grounds.

Feeding:

To feed, the hummingbird uses its needle-like bill to sip nectar from red, tubular flowers such as crossvine and cardinal flower. It may also feed on insects and spiders. It hovers in the air while feeding.

Predators:

Hawks, blue jays and domestic cats are a few hummingbird predators.

Flight:

Hummingbirds are unique because they can fly backwards and upside down. Their wings beat about 53 times per second.

Voice:

The hummingbird gets its name from the humming sound made by its rapid wing beats. Males will emit a single warning note if another male enters their breeding territory.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Males establish a mating territory, performing a courtship display for any female that enters. During his courtship display, a male’s wings can beat more than twice as fast as normal. After mating, the male and female separate. The female builds a tiny, 2-inch nest in a tree above an open area. She lays an average of two eggs, which she incubates for 10 to 14 days. The chicks leave the nest 18 to 22 days after hatching. Hummingbirds can live up to nine years in the wild.

Other Facts:

  • The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird found in the mid-Atlantic region. It is also the smallest bird in the Chesapeake Bay region.
  • The bird's short legs prevent it from walking or hopping.
  • Adult hummingbirds may eat twice their body weight in food each day, which they need to sustain their rapid movement and wing beats.

Sources and Additional Information:




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