Ruby-Throated Hummingbird ( Archilochus colubris )

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are members of the family Trochilidae which is composed of more than 300 species, found only in the New World. The majority of hummingbird species are found in the tropics. The name, Hummingbird, originates from the noise certain species make during flight. They have short legs and small feet which are used for perching but not for walking or running. They reach a size of around 3 to 3.5 inches (7.5-9 cm).

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is small, iridescent green with a black throat patch that when light strikes the feathers, it appears to be a bright ruby red. They are renown for their bright and brilliant iridescent coloration in their plumage, which results from a refraction effect in the proper light. The juvenile ruby-throat is the same coloration as the female.

They feed on insects and have specialized beaks suited for regularly feeding on nectar, thus playing a role in plant reproduction. They also come to artificial nectar feeders and are attracted to tubular red flowers.

They are exceptionally strong fliers. They possess an innate ability to hover and fly backward. Their wing speed can reach about 80 beats per second which makes their wings appear as a blur to any observer who might see them in flight. Their heart pumps 1,260 beats per minute and it breathes 250 times per minute. It weighs approximately 2 to 3 grams.

Normally hummingbirds are non-migratory, but the ruby-throated hummingbird is migratory and can fly long distances, nonstop, of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles), across the Gulf of Mexico. Annually, ruby-throat hummingbirds migrate from the Carolinas, to Florida, Mexico and Central America.

Generally, the female constructs the cup-shaped nest out of plant material, spider web and glues pieces of lichen on the outside for camouflage. The mother incubates one or two eggs which are white without any markings, and raises the young on her own. She typically raises a total of one to two broods per year. Incubation takes 12 to 14 days. Fledging between 14-18 days, female feeds the young.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Animalia – Animal, animals
Phylum Chordata – chordates
Subphylum Vertebrata – vertebrates
Class Aves – Birds
Order Apodiformes – Swifts, Hummingbirds
Family Trochilidae – Hummingbirds
Subfamily Trochilinae
Genus Archilochus Reichenbach, 1854 – Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
Species Archilochus colubris (Linnaeus, 1758) – Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby Throated Hummingbird Pair, male and female
Male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds

References and Further Reading

  • Hummingbird, Trochilidae
  • Archilochus colubris, (Linnaeus, 1758), Taxonomic Serial No.: 178032
  • Golden Book Encyclopedia, ©1960
  • Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge, ©1991
  • Birds of the Carolinas, by Stan Tekiela, 2nd Edition, Adventure Publications ©2001
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