Jun 25 2013


Published by under General
Comments: 16

I’m still on vacation. I had an encounter with some hummingbirds this morning. If you live in the North Eastern part of the US and you see a hummingbird in the wild, then it is overwhelmingly likely to be a ruby throated hummingbird. This is the only species that is endemic to the area. There are occasional reports of other species of hummingbird, but they are likely accidentals.

This little guy is a male ruby throat – the reason for the name is quite visible in the photo.

I usually don’t see hummingbirds perched like this. I have a feeder, and the hummingbirds usually hum in, hover while they feed, then flit away.

They are famous for their rapid wing speed, beating their wings up to 53 times per second. Their high metabolism means they have to consume up to twice their body weight in food each day. In addition to nectar, they will also eat insects and spiders.

Keeping a hummingbird feeder is easy. You can either buy nectar, or just make it by mixing sugar in water in a 1:4 ratio. You need to replace it every few days, however.



Here is a female ruby throat in flight. I caught it in good lighting, but that means my flash didn’t go off, which is why the wings are still a blur. In order to freeze the wings in flight you need a very fast shutter speed and likely also a flash. The female does not have the ruby throat and has more of the emerald green on its back.

Below is probably a juvenile male. They develop the ruby throat as they age, and so young males may have just a few ruby feathers. One of the challenges of bird identification is learning not just the male and female variation, but also the juvenile of each sex. Also there are sometimes summer and winter colors. Further some species will have color variations, and there are also occasional mutations (often called simply “wierdos” by birders). Maybe in a later post I will show all my pictures of atypical birds.


Here’s one more picture of the male ruby throat. In this picture he is sticking his tongue out at me, perhaps because I had been stalking him with my camera while he was trying to feed. Hummingbirds are very territorial. While I was observing them this morning on several occasions two hummingbirds would fight over a place at the feeder. They can e quite aggressive.

If at all possible where you live I highly recommend you hang a hummingbird feeder in a place where you will have a good view. It’s very cool to see these birds in action. The first time you see one you might think it’s a large insect. They do actually hum, rather than buzz, and if you look closely, of course, you will see a beautiful little bird.

16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Hummingbirds”

  1. lfvvbon 25 Jun 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I have heard that the feeders, having only sugars and not aminoacids, were actually harmful for the birds. The explanation being that they get all fed up and not getting all the nutrients they need. Have you read or seen anything about that?

    Awesome vacation post.

  2. quarksparrowon 25 Jun 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Nothing brings out the pedants quite like bird ids. 😉 Wanted to point out that all of these photos are of adult male rubythroats. Like other iridescent birds, their colour is dependent on feather structure instead of pigment, and requires a light source (appearing black when in shadow). A female or juvenile male will have a white throat.

  3. Bruce Woodwardon 26 Jun 2013 at 5:16 am

    Where is the balance eh Steve? Two bird posts and no monkey posts.

    I am disappoint.

  4. Steven Novellaon 26 Jun 2013 at 8:52 am

    quark – Thanks – I think you’re right.

  5. ConspicuousCarlon 26 Jun 2013 at 9:35 am


    I was just reading the Wikipedia article on hummingbirds, which says that fancy sfore-bought nectars with extra nutrients are not necessary because the birds still eat insects as they usually would.

  6. ConspicuousCarlon 26 Jun 2013 at 9:42 am


    Everyone knows that monkeys like to wake up in the morning and chow down on a nice bowl full of these little puff balls (with a generous portion of milk poured over them). Any post about hummingbirds is already about monkeys, even if it isn’t mentioned.

  7. lfvvbon 26 Jun 2013 at 10:48 am

    Ok, awesome, thanks ConspicuousCarl.

  8. Bruce Woodwardon 26 Jun 2013 at 10:49 am

    Go feed your birds… Monkeys need no help from silly humans!

  9. Kawarthajonon 26 Jun 2013 at 11:29 am

    quarksparrow: don’t you mean “pendants”, as Jay would say on the SGU?

  10. ConspicuousCarlon 26 Jun 2013 at 2:11 pm

    The sad confession for today is that hummingbirds do scare the heck out of me every time I run into them because for a split second I think it is a giant bee. My vision is not bad enough to motivate me to wear my glasses full time, but just bad enough to cause this sort of confusion more often than average.

    It is rather fascinating that some birds have evolved to fill a role which is normally for insects. And, though all official hummingbirds are closely related, Wikipedia mentions a couple other groups of birds which have evolved varying wills and abilities to do the same (including hovering).

  11. ChrisHon 26 Jun 2013 at 3:19 pm

    We get Anna’s hummingbirds. The sometimes have a red neck.

    They are the reason I grow hardy jasmine, hardy fushias, snowberries, sage and even vine maples:

  12. Jared Olsenon 26 Jun 2013 at 10:01 pm

    “Beautiful plumage..”

  13. Bill Openthalton 27 Jun 2013 at 7:24 am

    @ Carl

    It is rather fascinating that some birds have evolved to fill a role which is normally for insects.

    We don’t have hummingbirds where I live, but we do have large hawk-moths that look, fly and feed surprisingly like hummingbirds. So what we have two different phyla filling the same niche, and producing a very similar shape from a totally different body pattern. Amazing.

  14. ConspicuousCarlon 27 Jun 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Wow, some of those hawk moths could easily sneak past the bouncer at a hummingbird club.


  15. Draalon 01 Jul 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Here’s a picture I took of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird when I was in Belize.

  16. AttacusAtlason 03 Jul 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I live in BC, Canada — and although our winter weather is usually quite mild, there is the occasional cold-snap that freezes the feeders, so my mom lets the hummers inside until it passes by putting a feeder just inside the window.

    She has branches and a fake tree inside (in which they perch & sleep at night ), provides sugar water feeders, flowering plants, a small bird bath, and even live fruit flies! Although they are territorial, she’s had as many as 5 at once – peacefully co-existing without incident.

    We’ve even heard a male doing a beautiful warbly song! Here is a photo I took several years ago — you can see a 2nd hummingbird in the background.


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