How to Identify Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Look for ruby-throated hummingbirds in the eastern states during summer. See what males and females look like and learn about their migration and nests.

Bnbbyc16 Janice Carter 001Courtesy Janice Carter
Male ruby-throated hummingbird
female ruby throated hummingbirdCourtesy Barbara Houlihan
Female ruby-throated hummingbird

Male and Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Male ruby-throated hummingbirds steal the show with green bodies and ruby red throats that glisten like jewels in the sunlight. Their vibrant green heads glow, too!  Females aren’t as grandiose in appearance. They sport a green head with white underparts and black masks near their eyes. Both sexes have a metallic green back. They measure about 3 3/4 inches long with a wingspan of 4 1/2 inches.

Check out frequently asked questions about attracting hummingbirds.

ruby throated hummingbird nestCourtesy Stephanie Cullinan
Ruby-throated hummingbird nest

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Nest

From midspring through late summer, the female ruby-throat is constantly on the move. She chooses a nest site, builds a nest, incubates eggs and raises the young birds all on her own. The males don’t play a role. She’s doing all this while trying to keep herself fueled and fed!

These tiny fliers build a cup-shaped nest with moss, spiderwebs and camouflaged with lichen. The female lays two tiny white eggs that look like jelly beans.

Learn more about the life of a female hummingbird.

Juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

All juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds look so similar to females that it’s often nearly impossible to tell the difference. About 15 days after hatching, baby hummingbirds stand up on the edge of the nest and exercise their wings. They leave the nest a few days later. Young fledglings can’t feed themselves; it takes practice to hover and drink nectar. The female continues to feed them for up to a week as they learn how to find food.

Whether a male, female or juvenile chooses your yard, their acrobatic, territorial and erratic antics always entertain. Check out more jaw-dropping facts about hummingbirds.

What Do Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Eat?

Ruby-throated hummingbirds zip, zoom and dart from one food source to another. Because they constantly burn energy while on the move, they may eat up to three times their body weight in a day. Their diet consists of nectar, insects and tree sap. In the backyard, offer sugar water and tube-shaped flowers.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Call

Listen to the ruby-throated hummingbird’s song to help identify them. This bird makes a soft “tew” and a rapid series of chipping notes.

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Habitat and Range Map

Several hummingbird species are sprinkled over the western half of North America, but only one, the ruby-throat, flies the eastern skies regularly. Look for them in gardens, woodland edges and parks.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Bird SpeciesRange maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Migration

Ruby-throated hummingbirds move south in late summer and early fall. Some ruby-throats fly more than 3,000 miles from Canada to Costa Rica. That’s quite a feat for a bird that weighs a little less than 4 grams. They need food sources to fuel their migration. A good rule of thumb is to leave your feeders up for a couple of weeks after you see the last one pass by.

Don’t miss these hummingbird feeders and accessories your birds will love.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.
Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.