Tag Archives: ruby-throated hummingbird

Tiny athlete, the hummingbird

It’s a short flight from flowering shrubs to telephone wire to laurel oak in the southeast corner of our backyard where I often see this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

She never has to go shopping: she is always dressed beautifully in a metallic green cloak that shines in the sun.

The skinny-bird look with neck extended means she knows I’m watching her.

She weighs a little less than a nickel. She can beat her wings 80 times per second. At rest, she takes 250 breaths per minute. Her heart beats over 1,000 times per minute.

During flight, hummingbird oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen for elite human athletes.

Hummingbirds’ brains are the largest relative to their size of any bird and their hearts are the largest relative to their size of any animal. And…

Muscles make up 25–30% of their body weight, and they have long, blade-like wings that, unlike the wings of other birds, connect to the body only from the shoulder joint. This adaptation allows the wing to rotate almost 180°, enabling the bird to fly not only forward but backward, and to hover in mid-air, flight capabilities that are similar to insects and unique among birds.

Watch: Hummingbirds in Slow-Motion

The hummingbird next door


Silhouette of a tiny bird.

This hummingbird flew across the street I was walking along and landed on a branch in a neighbor’s yard this morning.


He looks a little bit tired. Hummingbirds are usually in constant motion. Is he migrating?


Identifying hummingbirds in NH was easy because there’s only one kind there, and only in summer, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This may be a Ruby-throated but I didn’t get a good look at his neck. Maybe a Black-chinned?

At least 12 species of hummingbird have been reported in Florida, according to the website Florida Hummingbirds.

Addendum: consensus on the Facebook ABA, Hey What’s This Bird? is that it is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Window hummingbird feeder

hummingbird window feeder

Hummingbirds are visiting the new window hummingbird feeder many times a day.

My youngest daughter Laura gave it to me last Christmas; I put it up last week. It’s sunctioned-cupped to a living room window and visible from the kitchen too.


Is it cat torture or cat entertainment? We can’t decide.


I have mostly seen a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at this feeder, and yesterday an aerial battle between two females to see who would perch and feed first. (There are multiple feeding ports, but they don’t seem to share.)

The back porch hanging feeder is attracting both male and female. I wonder how many hummingbirds there are around here.

Here is the feeder on Amazon: Aspects 407 Jewel Box Window Hummingbird Feeder, 8-Ounce

All my posts on Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

940 Feathers: Appreciating Hummingbirds

male hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Feathers: Some feathers on a hummingbird hold bright radiant color. This coloring comes from iridescent coloring like on a soap bubble or prism and requires sunlight to show these colors off. An average sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers. This is more feathers per square inch of their body than any other bird in the animal kingdom. – Hummingbird Anatomy

female hummingbird

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Eyes: Hummingbirds have very large eyes in proportion to their body weight. The eyes are set on the side of the head allowing the hummingbird to see both ahead (binocular vision) and on the side peripherally (monocular vision). Hummingbirds have many more rods and cones than humans in their eyes to help them see well. This makes them better able to see colors and ultraviolet light. Hummingbird’s eyes will regularly outweigh a hummingbird’s brain. – Hummingbird Anatomy

male hummingbird

Beak: The beak or bill on a hummingbird is longer in proportion to their body than other birds. This is so they can reach deep down into a tubular flower to get the nectar. A hummingbird’s beak is not hollow. They do not sip nectar up like a straw. The beak or bill has an upper and lower portion, much like any other bird. – Hummingbird Anatomy

“I like to imagine they use their beaks for fencing.” – my daughter Anna


Haida hummingbird art by April White

Northwest Tribal Art Symbols: A literal messenger of joy, this beautiful tiny bird, also called Sah Sen, represents friendship, playfulness, and is a symbol of good luck in Northwest Coastal Native art.

And more from World of Hummingbirds/ Anatomy...

Tongue: The tongue on a hummingbird is very long. It is grooved like the shape of a “W”. On the tip of the tongue are brushy hairs that help lap up nectar from a flower. A hummingbird can lap up nectar at a rate of about thirteen (13) licks per second. Hummingbirds have only a few taste buds on the tongue. Hummingbirds can taste just enough to know what is good and what is bad. They can also taste what too sweet, not sweet enough, or just right.

Nostrils: Hummingbird nostrils are located at the base of the beak. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.

Bones: In order to be as lightweight as possible, most of the hummingbird’s bones are extremely porous. Some hummingbird bones, like those in the wings and legs, are hollow to save even more weight.

Brain: A hummingbird’s brain is approximately 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. Hummingbirds are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.

Wings: A hummingbird’s wings are unlike any other bird’s wings. They allow a hummingbird fly forward, backward, hover, and even fly upside-down for a short period of time. Hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can fly like this. A hummingbird can perform these feats of acrobatics for several reasons. First of all their shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint that allows the hummingbird to rotate their wings one hundred eighty (180) degrees in all directions. Hummingbird wings with beat about seventy (70) times per second while in regular flight and up to 200 times per second when diving. (Smaller hummingbird’s wings beat about thirty-eight (38) to about seventy-eight (78) times a second while larger ones beat their wings about eighteen (18) to twenty-eight (28) times per second.) Hummingbirds don’t flap their wings, they rotate them. When hummingbirds fly, they move their wings in an oval pattern, except when they are hovering. When they are hovering they will move their wings in a figure-eight motion. A hummingbird can fly at an average speed of twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) miles per hour, and dive at a speed of up to sixty (60) miles per hour.

When hummingbirds fly, they fly upright, facing the world, not flat like most birds. – World of Hummingbirds

Actually, the female has a white throat

female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The name really only applies to the male of the species. The female has a creamy white throat and belly.

They are amazing little animals.

As part of their spring migration, portions of the population fly from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico across the Gulf of Mexico, arriving first in Florida and Louisiana. This feat is impressive, as a 800 km (500 mi), non-stop flight over water would seemingly require a caloric energy that far exceeds an adult hummingbird’s body weight of 3 g (0.11 oz). However, researchers discovered the tiny birds can double their fat mass to approximately one gram in preparation for their Gulf crossing, then expend the entire calorie reserve from fat during the 20 hour non-stop crossing when food and water are unavailable.

Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolic rates of any animal, with heart rates up to 1260 beats per minute, breathing rate of about 250 breaths per minute even at rest, and oxygen consumption of about 4 ml oxygen/g/hour at rest. During flight, hummingbird oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen for elite human athletes.

They feed frequently while active during the day. When temperatures drop, particularly on cold nights, they may conserve energy by entering hypothermic torpor.


Muscles make up 25–30% of their body weight, and they have long, blade-like wings that, unlike the wings of other birds, connect to the body only from the shoulder joint. This adaptation allows the wing to rotate almost 180°, enabling the bird to fly not only forward but fly backward, and to hover in front of flowers as it feeds on nectar or hovers mid-air to catch tiny insects. Hummingbirds are the only known birds that can fly backward.

During hovering, (and likely other modes of flight) ruby-throated hummingbird wings beat 55 times per second.

Dinner on the deck

Hairy Woodpecker

A Hairy Woodpecker gloms on to a suet cake. The red mark on its head identifies it as a male.

Hairy Woodpeckers and and their smaller cousins Downy Woodpeckers are abundant around here, bold around people, and sometimes comical in their maneuvers.

Here’s a short video from last night: a Hairy Woodpecker visits the platform feeder and a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sips sugar water nearby. Both are females.

I bought the platform feeder recently to try to accommodate as many different kinds of backyard birds as possible.

It is made of recycled plastic, has coated steel cables and a metal hook for hanging and a metal screen bottom.

platform feeder

On the menu: raw peanuts, suet nuggets, and Audubon Workshop Premium Mix for Fruit and Nut Lovers.

On the menu for us humans: sausage on the grill, wild rice, collard greens from our garden cooked with bacon, onions, apple cider vinegar.


The view on Friday evening.

I love summer.

Recommended: Woodlink Audubon Going Green Platform Feeder

Recommended: Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder

For size comparison, a photo of a Downy Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker, taken last winter…

Downy Hairy

The larger of two look alikes, the Hairy Woodpecker is a small but powerful bird that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. It wields a much longer bill than the Downy Woodpecker’s almost thornlike bill. Hairy Woodpeckers have a somewhat soldierly look, with their erect, straight-backed posture on tree trunks and their cleanly striped heads.

Feeding hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Hello, bird! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits our backyard.

I finally took the hint and bought them a feeder.

Two weeks ago I was buzzed a couple of times while sitting on the back deck with a book and glass of wine. Hummers really do sound like big bumblebees. Two days later my daughter Anna was doing dishes when a hummingbird came and hovered at the kitchen window, staring at her. “He looked into my soul,” she said.

The first skinny, tiny, hungry migrants arrived in coastal New Hampshire three weeks ago. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico and Central America. In spring, they fly from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida and Louisiana, across the Gulf of Mexico – 500 miles over open water!

Hummingbird feeder

I did some research and decided to order a Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder from Amazon.

It has a perch around the rim so they don’t have to hover and expend energy while they feed. (Also, then they hold still for photos!) It has an “ant moat” in the middle to keep ants from getting to the nectar.

The cover is bright red to attract hummingbirds and it snaps off easily for cleaning and filling.

Pensive hummingbird

I like to imagine this little bird is appreciating this newly discovered food source.

Recipe for hummingbird nectar:

• Boil 1 cup of water

• Add 1/4 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve (4:1 ratio water to sugar)

• Let cool to room temperature and serve

No need to add red dye. If it’s cold and rainy, or near migration time, you can make the nectar a bit more concentrated… as much as a 3:1 ratio.

The first hummingbird dinner guest arrived the day after I put up the feeder. I celebrated by creating a new cocktail I call The Ruby-throated Hummingbird…


Mix melon schnapps (or Midori melon liqueur) with vodka and some simple syrup… or homemade hummingbird nectar! Carefully and slowly pour a “floater” (it sinks) of Grenadine. Top with crushed ice.

Sip slowly on the back deck in view of the hummingbird feeder. Don’t worry about scaring them off. They are tiny but they are bold, not shy.

Do you feed hummingbirds? Any tips on what works (or doesn’t) in your yard?

Good info: Birdwatchers.com: Debbie’s Tips for Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds