Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris
hummingbird 520x322

There are 320 species of hummingbirds, but only 14 breed in North America, and one can be found breeding east of the Mississippi River. That would be the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They get their name from the brilliant red throats of the adult males.

Ruby-throats are very attracted to the color red. So if you want to attract them to your yard, try planting red tubular flowers. Some examples are Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica), and Native Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). 

Red dye or no red dye in the feeder? Scientist can’t seem to agree, but there is a possibility that the red dye is harmful to the birds. Some think kidney failure, liver tumors, and weakened young are a result of the red dye. So if you’d rather be safe than sorry or would just like to save some money, it’s a simple mixture of 4 parts water 1 part sugar. No need to boil the water either, warm tap water will be enough to dissolve the sugar.

The best times to put up feeders in western Kentucky are the first part of April, and leave them hanging until mid to late October. Shady locations under trees are a great spot. The tree will provide good protection for the birds in-between drinks and the shade on the feeder will slow the fermentation process of your food. 

Now you’ve planted native red flowers, and properly hung your feeder. So, where are those silly birds anyway!? When they are migrating is when they can be seen most frequent. That is early spring and late summer/early fall. All that time in the middle is not spent discussing the weather. No, they are actually doing something a little more X-rated…their breeding. During that time, the birds are 1) distracted by the opposite sex, 2) busy building nest, 3) feeding on insects for the protein, and 4) tending to little hummingbirds. Don’t worry, they are still visiting your feeder, just not as much and only in the very early hours of the day when it is cool.


Other than the obvious humming of their fast-beating wings, hummingbirds do make noises! They make a number of chips for various reasons. Males will repeat a series of chips during their breeding dance. Another example is when hummingbirds are chasing away another from the feeder, you may hear them make a chip call that is described as “chee-dit”.


For more ideas on how to make your yard hummingbird friendly click here!

This link will take you to a hummingbird fact sheet. 

Facts About Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are about 3 1/2 inches from the tip of their beaks to the tip of their tales.

The oldest known surviving Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a banded bird that was 6 years 11 months old.

Their tongue is grooved on the sides to collect nectar which they lap up at the rate of 13 licks per second.

In the hottest part of the summer it may be necessary to change your feeder 2 to 3 times a week.

Hummingbirds do not migrate on the backs of geese...they make the whole flight on their own. That’s 500 miles just across the Gulf of Mexico.

Leaving a feeder up too late in the fall will not cause the birds to miss their migration.