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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog
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Animal of the Week: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

As the weather is changing we are hearing more birds in the morning and we are beginning to see more birds. One bird that is always fun and exciting to see each year is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The Ruby-throated Humming is found throughout Eastern North America. It is only found in Eastern North America and its habitat does not overlap with any other species of hummingbird except the Black-chinned Hummingbird which is found in Texas.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are easy to identify. They are very small weighing less than a quarter ounce only about 3 inches long and their wings are about 4 inches long. The back and crown of the head are a bright emerald or golden greens. The underside is grey-white and males have a bright iridescent red chin and throat. The bill is slender and has a slight downturn.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be seen in a number of habitats. They prefer to be near open woodlands but are commonly found in prairies, open fields, forest edges, meadows, and in backyards. They nest in trees and the nests are found along a slender branch. The nest is very small measuring up to 2 inches across and about 1 inch deep. The nest is placed on top of the branch (rather than in the fork of the branch) and is constructed of dandelion and thistle fluff held together with spiders silk and pine resin. The female makes the nest and tends the eggs. The male only spends enough time for courtship and mating. After that they are on their own.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeds primarily on nectar from flowers that are in the red and orange color spectrum. They feed from flowers with tubular flowers or from hummingbird feeders. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird like all bird species feed on insects for part of the year. They catch insects while in flight or will pull them from spider webs.

Fun Ruby-throated Hummingbird Facts:

  1. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings at a rate of approximately 53 times per second
  2. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have extremely short legs. Its legs are so short that it cannot walk and can barely shuffle on a branch. Yet it can lift its leg and scratch its head by lifting its leg over its wing.
  3. Colored sugar water is dangerous for Hummingbirds to eat. It is believed that the food coloring can have a negative effect on the liver and kidneys of the Hummingbird.


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