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.
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.
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!
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.
Range 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.