The Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Protected Species of Migratory Bird

No mater where you might live in the United States, chances are good that your state will probably have a least one species of hummingbird that visits your area of the county. The one exception to this that I know of is Hawaii, because there are absolutely no species of hummingbirds found there. Hawaii is known for have a wide variety of other birds but they do not have any hummingbirds. Why this is so I can’t offer an explanation, but based on the Internet research I have done this has been found to be true, I live in southeast Texas, which is located about 90-100 miles east of Houston, and in the state of Texas alone there are at least 17 different species of hummingbirds. The birds are mostly found in far west or south Texas or along the coast during the winter. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are extremely territorial. They will vigorously defend a feeder or a group of flowers from other hummingbirds, hawk moths, and butterflies.
On a personal note, this post was inspired by a friend of mine, Dwight Hunter, from South Dakota who recently asked me what species of hummingbirds are common in that area of the country. At that time, I was uncertain of the answer to his question and I told him that I would look into the matter and get back to him with the answer. Well, Dwight, the answer to your question is the Ruby-throated hummingbird. It is my hope that you can now share this information with your young grandson who loves all types of birds. Anyone else who also reads this information, I hope that you will also find this information interesting, informative and enlightening. After all, it is never too early or late to begin learning to have a love of all things nature.
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is a very common species of hummingbird; so many people will likely have the opportunity to see them. Here is what to look for when you are trying to identify the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The males have metallic green backs, black chins, metallic red throats and white under parts. The females lack the black chins and red throats.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are found throughout the eastern part of Texas and the U.S. and southern Canada. They migrate to Mexico south through Costa Rica for the winter. The Ruby-throated hummingbird must gain critical bodyweight before attempting to cross the Gulf of Mexico. The hummingbirds will nearly double their weight (from about 3.25 grams to 6 grams) before crossing the Gulf of Mexico. A single migration can become a nonstop flight of up to 500 miles over a period of 18 to 22 hours.
Many other species of hummingbirds are similar to both the male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The Broad-billed Hummingbird is similar to the male Ruby-throated, but has a rosy-red throat rather than a scarlet or ruby throat patch. Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can also be identified by their black face and chin, and their distinctive call notes, and the lack of a wing whistle produced by their wings in flight. Females are similar to a number of other female hummingbirds. The best way to identify the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird from the Calliope Hummingbird and species in the genus Selasphorus is by their lack of rufous on the flanks and in the tail. Anna’s Hummingbirds are larger and have grayer chests, while Costa’s Hummingbirds differ only in subtleties of facial pattern and tail pattern. Black-chinned Hummingbird females are essentially identical, and are not safely identifiable from female Ruby-throated except in the hand. The best way to distinguish the Ruby-throated Hummingbird from all other species of hummingbirds, except Black-chinned Hummingbird, is by their call.
These tiny birds eat flower nectar and small insects. Hummingbirds get the protein they need in their diet by eating the small insects and spiders they find in flowers. Red columbine is one of the first food plants that returning Ruby-throated Hummingbirds depend upon during their spring migration northwards.   It is believed by some scientists that as many as 19 species of plants which are found in the eastern United States have co-evolved with hummingbirds. This is believed to be due to the tubular shape of certain flowers and the length and shape of a hummingbird’s bill. The hummingbird laps up nectar by flicking its long, forked tongue deep within a flower at rates up to ten times per second. It forages while hovering airborne, inadvertently collecting pollen on its feathers and bill before darting off to its next meal. Its efficiency as a pollinator is comparable to that of a honey bee.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a total estimated population of over 7 million individuals. This species of hummingbird was hunted during the nineteenth century for its beautiful plumage, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbird now enjoys protection from harvest through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act declares unlawful the taking, killing, or possessing of migratory birds. It is also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna of 1975.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a common species of hummingbird which enjoys a large population. This is probably due to the fact it is protected from harvest through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Through this act and maintaining and protecting habitats and nectar plants along the migration route of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird this species of hummingbird should maintain a healthy population well into the future.

30 replies on “The Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Protected Species of Migratory Bird”

First of all, Zoe, I wouold like to thank you for finding out what species of hummingbird can be found in South Dakota. I have only ever seen one hummingbird in my entire 65 years. And that one was in San Diego, CA. I was recovering from surgery in February about 8 years ago and I was sittin/sleeping in a deck chair on my daughter’s deck. I was awakened by a strange humming sound and it really surprised me to see a hummingbird hovering about 3 of 4 feet directly in front of my face. I only had a few seconds to look at it and it left as quickly as it appeared.
Since then, I have become interested in seeing if I can attract hummingbirds to our yard. I plan on planting some of the flowers that hummingbirds prefer and also set up some feeders.
I am grateful for the information you provide on your blog and I will be checking it out more in the future as I begin planning my hummingbird sanctuary.
Thanks for all your help.


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