The ruby throated hummingbird is one of the smallest of all North American hummingbirds. It is the most widely distributed and the only hummingbird east of the Mississippi River. If you have relatives in the west, they are entertained by over 10 different species of this unique bird.
Our ruby weighs about as much as a single penny in your hand. Males and females are approximately 3 ½ inches long, the female is slightly heavier. The throat of the male often appears to be a brilliant metallic red that can take on gold or orange hues as the light changes. You can find the same reaction to light conditions on fish scales.
The male ruby throated hummingbirds arrive on the breeding ground throughout most of eastern North America between late April and mid-May, depending on the latitude. These dates are usually one week ahead of the females. Territories are established based on natural food supplies.
Males are extremely diligent in defending their territories from all competitors, including other males, females and even moths. Of course, all bets are off once the females start arriving. Then, the courtship begins. The male grabs the female’s attention with a pendulum-like flight pattern, so that the sunlight bounces off his brilliant throat. If interested, the female will perch and watch the entire show. If successful, the pair will mate and off she goes, never to have contact with the male again. Love and leave ‘em!
Since no bonding occurs, the male is free to roam his territory and mate with another female. For the female, however, her work has just begun.
The female ruby throated hummingbird chooses the nest site, builds the nest in about one week, and takes sole responsibility for all parental duties. The male is never involved in any aspect of his offspring.
These tiny jewels prefer wooded areas that are either strictly deciduous or mixed with conifers. The nest is about the size of a walnut and is extremely difficult for the human eye to locate. It consists of plant fibers such as thistle or dandelion down, held together by spider silk. The outside is usually covered with lichens.
The female usually lays two white, bean-sized eggs which she incubates for two weeks. These nestlings fledge in approximately 18-22 days.
The next time you see these winged ruby jewels in your yard, take a moment to reflect on the bird’s upbringing and you will appreciate its beauty even more.
Enjoy your birds.
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.