Ruby-throated Hummingbird Moves into the Neighborhood

This male ruby-throated hummingbird darted in to have a sip at our feeder.

This male ruby-throated hummingbird darted in to have a sip at our feeder.

Sometimes, the littlest things can get me excited — like spotting a hummingbird at our feeder.  And they truly are little, as well as elusive. They barely weigh more than two ounces at the most and are about three to four inches long.

In May, we take down the seed bird feeder and put up a hummingbird feeder. Actually, my husband does all of the work, but I’m an enthusiastic observer.  The feeder is outside of our breakfast nook, which is at tree level, so we have a good view.

We spotted a hummingbird a few times at first, and then the feeder sat full and unvisited, it seems, for all of June and most of July.

A male ruby-throated hummingbird at our feeder.

A male ruby-throated hummingbird at our feeder.

After an autumn, winter and spring of lively activity by the seed eaters, who mobbed the feeder and fought one another for perches, it got awfully boring waiting at the window, staring at the red liquid that never seemed to drop. Occasionally a wasp would land for a sip. Ok, maybe I didn’t watch that much, but I did glance up from my newspaper every now and then.

Our conversation was sparkling each day.  “Has the level gone down at all?”

“I don’t think so.”

Dutifully, my husband changed the untouched nectar every week.

Then one day, my husband called out, “Hummingbird.”

I looked up.  Nothing.

“You missed it,” he said.  

This happened several times in a week.  I never saw anything.  I was beginning to think he was hallucinating.  It couldn’t just be my bad vision.  

Finally, just this week, a male hummingbird appeared. This time, when my husband said, “Hummingbird,” I actually saw one hovering at the feeder.  He said that he’d seen a female earlier.  Females are slightly larger, more brown-looking and have a whitish throat and a longer beak.

The next few days, I stood at the window off and on with my camera at the ready. That’s why I’ve included so many photographs.  I’ve got to make my vigil pay off in some small way.

A rare moment of stillness at the feeder.

A rare moment of stillness at the feeder.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds that breed in the eastern half of the United States.  They range as far north as Central Alberta over to Nova Scotia.  They are territorial and very feisty, particularly in late summer and early fall when they are fattening up for their long nonstop flight in September across the Gulf of Mexico to their winter quarters in southern Mexico and Central America.  They are solitary birds and don’t pair up the way cardinals do. After courtship and mating, the female hummingbird is left to do the child-rearing herself, including nest building.  She will repair an old nest.

A description of the nest sounds like something from a fairy story.  The female chooses a small tree branch where she builds a nest of thistle and dandelion down, held together with spider web and covered in lichen. She lays two eggs smaller than jellybeans.

Another view of our elusive ruby-throated hummingbird.

Another view of our elusive ruby-throated hummingbird.

At our previous house, about five miles north and also in a wooded area, we had several hummingbirds descend upon our feeders in late summer. They fought, divebombing and squeaking at each other.  When that happens, put up two feeders that are not within sight of each other, if you want to keep the peace.

The male has an iridescent red throat and is smaller than the female. The birds can beat their wings 55 times per second when hovering and even faster when moving backwards and forwards.  Nectar from flowers is its main food, but hummingbirds also will catch insects on the wing and snatch spiders from their webs.

 For more information on ruby-throated hummingbirds, go to or to this site at Cornell University.


Filed under Biology, Bird-watching, Family, Humor, Kansas, Life, Nature, Personal, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Ruby-throated Hummingbird Moves into the Neighborhood

  1. Susan

    Great photos! We have a similar feeder outside of our sunroom and the little guys keep coming over and staring at us thru the windows. I think that they are after my cosmo! Could it be?

  2. Beautiful! What wonderful photos too. I’m envious… to have hummingbirds in one’s garden, now that’s what I call exotic.

  3. alwaysjan

    Your photos are awesome and so……red! We have hummingbirds that hover over our pond to sip from a small fountain, but I’m too impatient/lazy to wait for that perfect shot.

    Once when we were hiking in Wyoming a hummingbird kept dive-bombing my mother-in-law because her shirt had big red flowers on it.

    Your photos have inspired me. I’ll try to get some photos of the parrots that visit for their daily fig fix.

  4. Catherine Sherman

    Susan, Yes, definitely those hummingbirds want to sip the red nectar in your cosmo. They’d fall right out of the sky after that.
    Paula, Hummingbirds seem exotic to me, too! I’m envious of their energy. They’re always on a sugar high.
    Jan (in L.A.) has so many hummingbirds — and parrots, too — that they seem to be as common as cardinals are here in Kansas City. I can’t imagine seeing wild parrots in my trees.

  5. Pingback: Ho, Hum, Another Hummingbird « Catherine Sherman

  6. I’ve read your posts for a long time and should tell you that your articles are always valuable to readers.

    Thanks, Vince

  7. Liza

    The info is awesome. Thanks.

  8. RMW

    One of my two cats likes to spend time out on the roof deck. Hummers stop by to sip nectar from the flowers. The cat and the hummer will be no more than three feet from each other but my cat does not move a muscle… he just stays still and watches and the birds don’t seem to mind…. I think my cat just takes pleasure in seeing the hummingbirds as I do! Never been fast enough to get a photo though… maybe I should give my cat the camera… Your photos are great.

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