Intro: The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in eastern North America. It is the only North American hummingbird that nests east of the Mississippi. This 3.5-inch wild bird weighs an eighth of an ounce; its heart beats 250 times per minute, and it can beat its wings about 50 times per second. Male ruby-throated hummingbirds have a shiny green back and ruby red throat (that may look black in certain lighting). The female birds are larger, have green backs with a white breast and throat. Females also have rounded tails with white tips, while the males have a forked tail with no white.
Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris
Habitat: Eastern to midwestern North America from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. In the winter, the ruby-throated hummingbird migrates south to Mexico, Central America and in the Caribbean.
How to Attract: Set out a hummingbird feeder filled with fresh sugar water (the feeder should be cleaned every three days or so). Because they are attracted to the color red, make sure the birdfeeder or the food is red. Ruby-throated hummingbirds will also feed from red-blooming tubular flowers (long and thin flowers that the bird can put its long beak into). They also eat small insects for their fat and protein content. See "Four Ways to Attract Hummingbirds" for more information and a list of container plants that hummingbirds love.
Misc. Info: The ruby-throated hummingbird is a solitary wild bird, so they can become aggressive when in the presence of others. To provide for less dominant individuals, set out several hummingbird feeders in your balcony garden and plant a lot of tubular flowers that will provide nectar. The ruby-throated hummingbird becomes even more aggressive when it is fattening up in preparation for migration, which can be a 500-mile, non-stop trip across the Gulf of Mexico. The hummingbirds that make this flight will double their body weight in preparation.
The female ruby-throated hummingbird raises her young alone. She will build a camouflaged nest on a tree limb and lay two eggs (about the size of a pea) over a several day period. The eggs hatch after two weeks, and the young will nest from two weeks to a month. The ruby-throated hummingbird has a potential life span of 12 years, but most will only live for a few years.
This hummingbird’s wings are only attached at the shoulder joint (unlike other birds), which allows it to fly backward as well as forward. It also conserves energy in cold temperatures by going into hypothermic torpor. Hypothermic torpor is a state similar hibernation to in other animals – during this time it will use 50 percent less energy than when awake, and its body temperature can go from its normal 104 degrees all the way down to 40 degrees. It takes a hummingbird 20 minutes to wake up from hypothermic torpor.