There is a small bird sitting among your honeysuckle bushes. What kind of bird is it? It is a ruby-throated hummingbird. In the summer across eastern North America, you will see these birds in parks, gardens, and your backyard. You will also see them in meadows, forest edges and along streams. In the winter you will find these birds in Central America and in Mexico.
Once Ruby-throated hummingbirds find a spot they want to live, they will make nests. The nests they make are the size of walnuts. They make their nests by weaving spider silks, cattails, or bits of dandelion.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are very small birds. They are about 3 to 3 ½ inches long. They weigh 0.1 ounces. They have long, thin beaks and long tongues. These help to sip nectar in deep, tube-shaped flowers. These birds will prepare for migration by eating a lot and storing fat. Stored energy is used to fuel their trip. In the winter, they will migrate to the south when the flowers and insects become less common.
One way to tell if a ruby-throated hummingbird is a male or female is by their feathers. Males are more colorful, and they have red feathers on their throat, though females do not. However, sometimes a male’s red feathers look black.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are omnivores, which means they eat food from plants and they eat animals. They will eat about every 20 minutes. They will pluck a spider from its web and catch flying insects in mid-air. Ruby-throated hummingbirds also sip nectar from flowers. They do prefer brightly colored flowers. In return they will also pollinate the flowers. Each day they can get nectar from about 1500 flowers.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are great flyers. They fly forwards, backwards, up, and down. They might have small wings, but they beat very fast. They beat their wings 40 to 80 times per second. For 20 feet, ruby-throated hummingbirds can fly up to 30 miles per hour. When these birds fly they make a humming sound, because they fly so fast, which is why they are called hummingbirds. Ruby-throated hummingbirds also can not walk. Instead they hop or scoot sideways.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds communicate by chittering and making other vocal noises. They also communicate by flying towards each other. For example, males fight and chase other males from their territories.
If a female enters a male’s territory, he tries to get her to mate. He does this by showing her his red throat feathers. After mating, the female lays one to three white eggs. The female will incubate the eggs for two weeks or until they hatch. Once they hatch, the female will raise her young on her own. She will bring her chicks small insects and spiders to eat. The mother normally won’t abandon their young. Three weeks after they are born, they are ready to live on their own. After one year, the hummingbird is mature and ready to find mates.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds live for three to nine years. Some of their predators are snakes, lizards and big insects. So now if you ever see a small bird on your honeysuckle again you know what it is, and how it is adapted to its environment.