The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is one of over a dozen hummingbird species that visit North America. These tiny birds return to the US each year to delight birdwatchers with their energetic antics.
Speaking of antics, these remarkable little creatures can fly across the open sea, fly backward, and even sleep upside down. So where exactly do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live, and how can you find them?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are a North American species that occur from Panama to Southern Canada. These birds are restricted to the states east of the great plains in the USA. They occupy a variety of woodland habitats and are regular backyard visitors to nectar feeders.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds (from a family of over 360 species) to breed to the east of the Mississippi drainage. They are also the most widespread member of the Trochilidae family and the species most familiar to American birdwatchers.
Hummingbirds rely on nectar and insects, two food sources that are in short supply during the American winter. They head south to avoid the cold weather and lack of resources, spending the winter in Mexico and Central America.
There’s so much more to learn about the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds’ distribution. Keep reading to discover where you might find these emerald and ruby jewels of the avian world.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are restricted to states east of the great plains in the US
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds occur only on the continent of North America and the islands of the Caribbean immediately to the South. Their range extends from Canada in the north to Panama in the south.
However, these birds are not present in the USA in every season. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migratory birds, so they visit opposite ends of their range at different times of the year. Continue reading to learn where and when these special birds visit the United States.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are widespread east of the great plains, occurring throughout most of the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast. These tiny birds are summer-breeding visitors to the US. They begin to arrive in the south in early April, and the first birds reach New England by June.
Although they migrate through central Texas to North Dakota, most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds breed further to the east, from the gulf coast to Minnesota and across to the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are widespread east of the great plains, occurring throughout most of the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast
Ruby throats are also the most widespread Hummingbirds in Canada, and many of them cross the border each year to nest. Their Canadian breeding range extends much further west than it does in the USA, stretching from Nova Scotia to central Alberta.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds prefer woodland and forest habitats. The dominant tree species in their habitat vary across their wide summer breeding range but include pines, aspens, maples, and cypress. Their favorite habitats in Central America include dry, deciduous, and evergreen forests.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed primarily on insects and nectar from tube-shaped flowers. Look out for the following flower species for a good chance of spotting some hummingbirds:
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are no strangers to parks and gardens. Bird watchers with backyards can attract these birds by planting hummingbird-friendly flowers and providing fresh water. Putting out a nectar feeder or two is also highly effective.
Just be sure to provide a healthy nectar mix, keep your feeders clean, and replace the nectar regularly. Who knows, you even be lucky enough to have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nesting in your yard.
A female Ruby-throated hummingbird visiting Black Cohosh
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can be very common in the summer in good habitat areas with abundant nectar supplies. They identify nectar feeders easily, and in time, backyard bird feeders can have several hungry hummers in attendance.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are widespread and common in the eastern USA. Birdwatchers should look for these birds in woodland and forest habitats, especially along their edges where flowers grow in the sunlight.
They also readily visit backyards, particularly those with hummingbird feeders and appropriate flowering plants like trumpet creepers and cardinal flowers.
Woodland and forests are one the best habitats to spot Ruby-throated hummingbirds
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are diurnal. That means they forage during the day and sleep at night. They come out to feed just after sunrise and have their last meals before sunset. Interestingly, some late feeders will visit nocturnal flowers in well-lit areas.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are highly migratory, so they do not stay in any one place throughout the year. However, increasing numbers of these birds are overwintering in the southeast of the USA, probably due to increased food availability and climate change.
That means birdwatchers in Florida and South Carolina could spot them throughout the year. However, these overwintering birds will have spent the summer further north.
So they don’t stay in one area throughout the year, but do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return to the same place? Banding studies suggest that they do, sometimes for many consecutive years. Studies found that females are more faithful to feeders, but males also return regularly.
Male Ruby-throated hummingbirds are much easier to spot, due to their brighter plumage
Winter is the non-breeding season for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. They head south to enjoy the milder weather south of the border by flying through Texas and mainland Mexico. Some brave birds even cross the Gulf of Mexico via Cuba.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds overwinter in the following countries:
Some also remain in the following American States:
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds survive the winter by migrating south. Winters are warm to hot near the equator, where the seasons change little. However, these fascinating birds have another trick up their sleeves. Hummingbirds can slow their metabolism and enter a hibernation-like state known as torpor. This action prevents them from running out of energy when food is scarce, or temperatures drop too low.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are highly migratory - female in flight
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live in woodlands, forest edges, old fields, parks, and backyards across the eastern half of the United States and Canada during the spring and summer nesting season.
Virtually the entire population makes this northward migration each year, although at least one individual has been found staying back in Central America.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are usually solitary creatures except when mating. Sometimes large numbers are seen on migration, and they may gather around rich food sources like hummingbird nectar feeders.
However, these aggregations should not be mistaken for social behavior. In fact, these fast-flapping birds are often highly aggressive over food resources in their territory.
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