Jun 25 2013
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.
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