Fun Facts About Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds -- Who's In the Backyard? Series


I may be on a staycation, but the birds in my yard are not! Today we will still have our Who's In the Backyard? Post. This week we are featuring the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. We are lucky to have a couple of bushes that hummingbirds like to feed off so we have some in our yard. Since the only type of hummingbird that breeds on the Eastern coast is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, we know that is what we have. Plus I will be sharing some photos from my uncle's feeder that he was kind enough to share with me. Here is a fun one he shared. (All of our photos seem to be of females or juvenile males, so I found one on-line of a male for the photo above.)

Fun Facts About Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

  1. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is one of the smallest species of hummingbirds. They only grow to a length of 3 to 3.5 inches in length. They weigh about 3 grams or less than ¼ of an ounce (the weight of a penny). They are sometimes mistaken for a large insect.
  2. Roughly 25 to 30 percent of a hummingbird’s weight is in its pectoral muscles which are principally responsible for flying.
  3. An average hummingbird’s heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute.
  4. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird only has about 940 feathers and they are all replaced every year.  They have the least number of feathers of all birds. The throat color is not caused by pigment but rather by iridescence in the arrangement of the feathers.
  5. Only adult males have the ruby colored throats. Females and juveniles have white throats.

  6. They are very straight flyers and have great precision.
  7. Hummingbirds can fly forward, sideways and backwards. Their wings move in about 180 degrees at their shoulders. The tips of their wings trace a figure eight and to change direction it is as simple as changing the angle of their wings. Hummingbirds are often on the move. Even when they are not moving, they are often seen hovering. They can stop and do to take rests.

  8. When they sleep their heart rate, breathing and metabolism all drop to the levels of hibernation. Often they hang in trees upside down.
  9. They can flap their wings 53 times per second. During courtship it can soar to about 200 times per second. Their wing movement can make a ringing/buzzing noise. They can make a twittering sound from their throat when they are acting territorial. They can fly 25 miles per hour and during courtship they can go 40 miles per hour in dives.
  10. They have short legs and cannot hop or walk. They can shuffle along a perch. It scratches its head and neck by raising its food up and over its wing.
  11. They must eat more than their weight in nectar and insects each day, and have of it needs to be sugar. They feed five to eight times an hour. They do not suck the nectar with their beaks but lick it with fringed, forked tongues. Capillary action along with the fringe of their tongue helps draw up the nectar into their throats to swallow.
  12. Their nests are made from fibers and lichen and held together with spider webbing.
  13. The female lays eggs about the size of peas.
  14. Adult Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are only social during courtship. The males leave after the reproductive act and leave the female to do all the parental care.
  15. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are basically helpless when hatched but are fully grown by the time they fledge the nest. The babies are fed tiny insects and spiders for protein. The leave the nest usually in 18 to 22 days.
  16. Hummingbirds have long thin beaks and long tongues to drink nectar from flowers.

  17. Hummingbirds are attracted to bee balm, trumpet creeper, coral honeysuckle vine, buckeye, cardinal flower, and pink turtlehead. They also like phlox, salvia, snapdragon, or fuchsia. They like red or orange flowers because of their high sugar content.
  18. They can fly more than 2,000 kilometers (more than 1,000 miles) without a break. They fly long distances to migrate in the fall. The older birds lead and the younger ones follow. Their fall migration peaks in September. They migrate to Central America and flies across the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight. In order to do this, they double their body mass from 3 grams to 6 grams (or the weight of a penny to the weight of a nickel).
  19. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have the largest breeding range of any hummingbird in North America. There are more than a dozen species of hummingbirds in the United States in the summer. There are nearly 350 species in all of the Americas.
  20. Many hummingbirds die in the first year, but the average for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds is three years. The oldest known Ruby-throated Hummingbird is 9 years 3 months old. Male hummingbirds do not usually live past five years.
  21. They have very good color vision and can see into the ultraviolet spectrum which humans cannot see. However, they have no sense of smell.


Hummingbird Crafts & Activities

I always like to share with you some crafts and books. I made this adorable felt hummingbird using the free pattern over at Downeast Thunder Farm. I made mine with a white throat since my little visitor is a female. I may make a male as well. If I do I am thinking I will use some sequins on his throat.

I am also knitting a hummingbird washcloth with the pattern I found at Daisy and Storm. I also have a round-up of hummingbird crafts including some books that have hummingbird crafts in them that I have reviewed. Be sure to also check out my Hummingbird Pinterest Board.

1) Hummingbird Craft from Tippytoe Crafts (I featured this on Sharing Saturday years ago)

2) Free Printable for Hummingbird ZooBooks from Wise Owl Factory

3) Paper Birds Review

4) Hummingbird Coloring Page

5) Hummingbird craft to go with book

6) Press Out + Color Birds Review

7) Origami Hummingbird

8) DIY Hummingbird Rossette

9) Michael LaFosse's Bird Origami Review (has instructions to make origami hummingbird)

To teach children about hummingbirds and read stories about them, I found these books. The ones that I have reviewed I will share links for!

Links to my reviews
2) Hummingbird by Nicola Davie
22) On the Wing by David Elliott

Join us next week for more fun facts about another creature in our backyard this summer!