The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird weighs about 3 grams and is about 9 cm long. Its plumage is a shiny green with a metallic cast on its back, head and wings. The greyish white of its breast and underwings contrasts with its throat, often red but sometimes orange or black, depending on the angle of the light. Its eyes are edged in black. Its black, forked tail sports feathers that are tapered towards the end. It has a long, straight, slender, dark beak.
The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird weighs about 3 grams and is about 9 cm long. Its plumage is a shiny green with a metallic cast on its back, head and wings. The greyish white of its breast and underwings contrasts with its throat, often red but sometimes orange or black, depending on the angle of the light. Its eyes are edged in black. Its black, forked tail sports feathers that are tapered towards the end. It has a long, straight, slender, dark beak.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)

Credit: Serge Beaudette

© Serge Beaudette


Females weigh about 3.3 g and are about 9 cm in length. Their eyes and beaks resemble those of the males. Their plumage is also similar, except for their throats, which are greyish white. Their tails are not forked, but rounded and some of the outer feathers have white spots. Immature hummingbirds resemble the female. Young males have dark stripes on their throats. At times, a touch of iridescent red may be seen there.
Females weigh about 3.3 g and are about 9 cm in length. Their eyes and beaks resemble those of the males. Their plumage is also similar, except for their throats, which are greyish white. Their tails are not forked, but rounded and some of the outer feathers have white spots. Immature hummingbirds resemble the female. Young males have dark stripes on their throats. At times, a touch of iridescent red may be seen there.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds ( juvenile male )

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris), juvenile male

Credit: Beverley Vycital

© Beverley Vycital


The size of nests varies from 1.5 to 4.5 cm in diameter and 2.5 to 5 cm in height. They are built from bud scales, lichen and blades of grass. This is all held together with spider webs or insect silk and lined with plant down for the nestlings' comfort. Nests are usually built in a tree 3 to 6 metres from the ground, but they may also be constructed on the end of a branch of a conifer or a broad-leaved tree. The eggs, 1 or 2 in number, are the size of a pea. The female usually has one clutch per year, but at times will have two. She will lay her eggs with a one-day interval and incubate them for about 16 days.
The size of nests varies from 1.5 to 4.5 cm in diameter and 2.5 to 5 cm in height. They are built from bud scales, lichen and blades of grass. This is all held together with spider webs or insect silk and lined with plant down for the nestlings' comfort. Nests are usually built in a tree 3 to 6 metres from the ground, but they may also be constructed on the end of a branch of a conifer or a broad-leaved tree. The eggs, 1 or 2 in number, are the size of a pea. The female usually has one clutch per year, but at times will have two. She will lay her eggs with a one-day interval and incubate them for about 16 days.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Credit: Serge Beaudette

© Serge Beaudette


The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is adapted to a wide variety of habitats: gardens, clearings, orchards and the edges of mixed and hardwood forests. It appears to prefer open spaces. Its diet varies according to month and location. It feeds on nectar and on tiny insects. It is particularly attracted to tubular flowers such as the honeysuckle, impatiens and lilies and has a weakness for red and orange flowers. Tree holes pecked by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers providing access to insects, and feeders filled with sweetened water are other food sources.

To see a video of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, follow this link and look at the bottom of the page.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is adapted to a wide variety of habitats: gardens, clearings, orchards and the edges of mixed and hardwood forests. It appears to prefer open spaces. Its diet varies according to month and location. It feeds on nectar and on tiny insects. It is particularly attracted to tubular flowers such as the honeysuckle, impatiens and lilies and has a weakness for red and orange flowers. Tree holes pecked by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers providing access to insects, and feeders filled with sweetened water are other food sources.

To see a video of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, follow this link and look at the bottom of the page.


© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)

Credit: Beverley Vycital

© Beverley Vycital


The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that can be seen in the eastern half of North America and the only one to nest to the east of Mississippi. During their migration, some fly 650 km above the Gulf without landing; others follow the coast. The males arrive in Canada in early May, before the females. The former are the first to establish their territories for the supply of nectar. Males leave for the South in mid-August; females and immature birds in early September.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that can be seen in the eastern half of North America and the only one to nest to the east of Mississippi. During their migration, some fly 650 km above the Gulf without landing; others follow the coast. The males arrive in Canada in early May, before the females. The former are the first to establish their territories for the supply of nectar. Males leave for the South in mid-August; females and immature birds in early September.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Range

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Range

Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook,
The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura (Accessed: May 8, 2007 ).

© Natureserve


The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is marvelously adapted to the rigours of climate. It lowers its body temperature and reduces its heart rate on cool nights. Its respiration is interrupted at times for brief moments. Due to this particular adaptation, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are able to survive at temperatures below 0°C. The period of torpor (temporary dormant state) may extend from 8 to 14 hours. Their metabolism returns to normal after about an hour. To learn more about thermoregulation in hummingbirds, follow this link.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is marvelously adapted to the rigours of climate. It lowers its body temperature and reduces its heart rate on cool nights. Its respiration is interrupted at times for brief moments. Due to this particular adaptation, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are able to survive at temperatures below 0°C. The period of torpor (temporary dormant state) may extend from 8 to 14 hours. Their metabolism returns to normal after about an hour. To learn more about thermoregulation in hummingbirds, follow this link.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)

Credit: Bob Isaac

© Bob Isaac


The record lifespan of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is 9 years, but on average they live 2 to 3 years. To learn more about hummingbird predators, follow this link.
The record lifespan of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is 9 years, but on average they live 2 to 3 years. To learn more about hummingbird predators, follow this link.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (juvenile male)

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris), (juvenile male)

Credit: Serge Beaudette

© Serge Beaudette


The Ruby-throated Hummingbird moves at an incredible speed. Its wingbeats have been calculated through filming and photographs, establishing a rhythm of 55 to 75 beats per second. To learn more about hummingbird flight, follow this link.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird moves at an incredible speed. Its wingbeats have been calculated through filming and photographs, establishing a rhythm of 55 to 75 beats per second. To learn more about hummingbird flight, follow this link.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)

Credit: cash52

© cash52, from the public domain


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • summarize information on Ruby-throated Hummingbird (nest, habitat, rage, approximate size)

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