Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

  • Version: 2.1 — Published July 22, 2019
  • Scott Weidensaul, Tara Rodden Robinson, Robert R. Sargent, Martha B. Sargent, and Theodore J. Zenzal

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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 (14 July).

A rather small hummingbird. Male's brilliant metallic red gorget covers entire throat with a blackish mask between the gorget and crown. Upperparts are metallic green. Lower underparts are whitish with extensive green and gray mottling to sides. Wings and tail are blackish.

© Nick Pulcinella , Pennsylvania , United States , 14 July 2018
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (24 September).

Malar region and underparts are dull grayish white or very pale brownish gray (usually more decidedly whitish on chin, throat, and malar region). The flanks and shorter undertail coverts are usually more or less tinged with pale buffy brownish; femoral tufts and tuft on each side of the rump are white. Three outer rectrices on each side are broadly tipped with white.

© Russ Wigh , Georgia , United States , 24 September 2016

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the only breeding hummingbird species in eastern North America, is a familiar summer inhabitant of woodlands, parks, and gardens from central Canada to the Gulf Coast that 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. The breeding range, which extends in west-central Canada to British Columbia, conforms closely to the range of eastern deciduous and mixed boreal forests (1).

Adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have an average mass of only 3.5 grams, adult males just 3.0 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' population that uses trans-Gulf versus circum-Gulf routes is largely unknown, as is regional connectivity in migration routes and overwintering areas.

Although the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is common and widely distributed, many fundamental aspects of its migration, breeding ecology, and molt remain poorly understood. At the time of this writing, for example, there has been only one study of nesting success in this species.

Recommended Citation

Weidensaul, S., T. R. Robinson, R. R. Sargent, M. B. Sargent, and T. J. Zenzal (2019). Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), version 2.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.