Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

  • Version: 2.0 — Published May 10, 2013
  • Scott Weidensaul, T. R. Robinson, R. R. Sargent, and M. B. Sargent

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Rare winter visitor to northern Mexico and the Gulf Coast.

Adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Clarence-Rockland, ON, 12 May.

The only breeding hummingbird throughout the East. Males are quite distinctive, and unlikely to be confused with any other species. Note the black auricular mask and throat, ruby red gorget, and white post-ocular spot. The following is a link to this photographer's website:

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, eastern North America's only species of breeding hummingbird, is a familiar summer inhabitant of woodlands, parks, and gardens from central Canada to the Gulf Coast. In geographic area, this species occupies the largest breeding range of any North American hummingbird. In the United States, the western boundary of its breeding range ends along a remarkably straight north-south line, just east of the 100th meridian. This distribution, as well as that in west-central Canada to British Columbia, conforms closely to the range of eastern deciduous and mixed boreal forests (Bertin 1982b).

Adult females of this species have an average mass of only 3.5 grams, adult males just 3 grams. Despite their tiny size, many of these birds fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during fall and spring migration, a round-trip of more than 1,600 km. To accomplish this, individuals often double their body mass by fattening on nectar and insects prior to departure. The proportion of this species following a trans-Gulf versus circum-Gulf route is largely unknown, as is regional connectivity in migration routes and wintering areas.

Although the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is widespread and much-loved species, many fundamental aspects of its migration and breeding ecology remain poorly understood. At the time of this writing, for example, there is not single study of nesting success in this species.

Recommended Citation

Weidensaul, S., T. R. Robinson, R. R. Sargent, and M. B. Sargent (2013). Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.