April 14, 2016
by Andrea Kerin
Have you seen your first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the season? If you haven’t, keep your eyes open. The migration map at www.hummingbirds.net shows this season’s first arrivals got here on April 10th. When you do spot her, that Ruby-throat may well be a repeat visitor to your yard from last summer. Records of banded and recaptured hummingbirds indicate that they return to the same locales year after year.
What it looks like: Ruby-throated Hummingbird is dimorphic, meaning the males and females differ in appearance. The female has a metallic green back, metallic dark green crown, white throat, near-black wings and rounded tail feathers with white-tipped outer feathers. The male exhibits largely the same features but has a forked tail lacking the white tips on the outer feathers. Most notably the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird boasts that extraordinary red throat. Interestingly, the colors on a hummingbird vary with light intensity and angle so in poor light that fabulous red throat and those green feathers can look black.
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird measures about 3.5 inches from the tip of her beak to tip of her tail. The adult female is usually 15-25 percent larger than adult males.
How and where to find it: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live in open woodlands, forest edges, meadows, grasslands, and in parks, gardens, and backyards. In these habitats they find diverse flowering plants and layers of shrubs, understory and canopy trees in which they can find the shelter and food they need to survive. Find Ruby-throated Hummingbirds by wandering through flowering gardens or woodland edges at the height of summer.
You can improve the odds of seeing a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in your backyard by protecting and restoring their habitat. Plant native hummingbird flowers, flowering shrubs, and trees. Then when you put up your hummingbird feeder your chances of seeing these flying jewels are greatly increased.
Interesting facts: Despite common misconception, hummingbirds do not survive on nectar alone. Yes it’s true that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed on the nectar of red or orange tubular flowers like trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee-balm, red buckeye and red morning glory. And they also visit hummingbird feeders and sometimes eat tree sap. But it’s a fact that Ruby-throats also eat aphids, small caterpillars, gnats, fruit flies, small bees and spiders often catching insects in midair or pulling them out of spider webs.
Conservation status: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is considered a species of least concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, Ruby throated Hummingbird populations have increased steadily from 1966-2014. Hummingbird feeders are thought to be safe if they don’t make the birds easy targets for cats and aren’t placed near windows that a bird could accidentally fly into.