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Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris ORDER: APODIFORMES FAMILY: TROCHILIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A flash of green and red, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is eastern North America’s sole breeding hummingbird. These brilliant, tiny, precision-flying creatures glitter like jewels in the full sun, then vanish with a zip toward the next nectar source. Feeders and flower gardens are great ways to attract these birds, and some people turn their yards into buzzing clouds of hummingbirds each summer. Enjoy them while they’re around; by early fall they’re bound for Central America, with many crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight.

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Keys to identification Help

Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a small hummingbird with a slender, slightly downcurved bill and fairly short wings that don’t reach all the way to the tail when the bird is sitting.

  • Color Pattern

    Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are bright emerald or golden-green on the back and crown, with gray-white underparts. Males have a brilliant iridescent red throat that looks dark when it’s not in good light.

  • Behavior

    Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fly straight and fast but can stop instantly, hover, and adjust their position up, down, or backwards with exquisite control. They often visit hummingbird feeders and tube-shaped flowers and defend these food sources against others. You may also see them plucking tiny insects from the air or from spider webs.

  • Habitat

    Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live in open woodlands, forest edges, meadows, grasslands, and in parks, gardens, and backyards.

Range Map Help

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Iridescent red throat
    • Grayish green vest
    • Long, straight, thin bill
    • © J Young
  • Female/ immature type

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Female/ immature type
    • Green back
    • Black mask with white behind eye
    • White underparts
    • © Jason Means, West Virginia, August 2008
  • Female/ immature type

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Female/ immature type
    • Pointed wings
    • Whitish underparts
    • Black tail with white spots at tips of feathers
    • © Debbie McKenzie, Alabama
  • Adult male

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Throat glows red at certain angles, appears black at others
    • White upper chest
    • Grayish green vest
    • © Michael Hogan, New Jersey, July 2005
  • Adult male

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Green crown
    • Red or slightly orange throat
    • © Michael Hogan, New Jersey, May 2006
  • Female/ immature type

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Female/ immature type
    • Green back
    • Green and black tail with white outer corners
    • © Ed Schneider , Portland, Tennessee, September 2008
  • Adult male

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Iridescent red throat appears blackish at some angles
    • Often feeds on sugar water feeders
    • © Jason Means, West Virginia, June 2008
  • Female/ immature type

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Female/ immature type
    • White belly with buffy undertail
    • Black mask with white behind eye
    • © bev edukabc, Georgia, January 2008
  • Adult male

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Wings beat very fast
    • Grayish green vest
    • Red throat
    • © J Young

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Anna's Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Iridescent reddish pink throat and crown
    • White eyering
    • © sannesu, California, November 2008
  • Adult female

    Anna's Hummingbird

    Adult female
    • Similar to female or immature Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Pale eyebrow
    • Usually red patch on center of gray throat
    • © John Riutta, Scappoose, Oregon, December 2008
  • Adult male

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Iridescent purple throat, black chin
    • Otherwise similar to Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • © Sam Wilson, Phoenix, Arizona, June 2007
  • Adult female

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult female
    • Similar to adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Crown usually grayish, not green
    • Difficult to distinguish from Ruby-throated; range overlap is small
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, June 2007
  • Adult male

    Broad-tailed Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Iridescent pinkish red throat and chin
    • Greenish or buff sides
    • White line along cheek
    • Rufous patches in tail
    • © Gary Wilson, Sierra Vista, Arizona, July 2006
  • Adult male

    Calliope Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Streaked iridescent reddish pink throat
    • White line along cheek
    • Very small
    • © sandy in seattle, Montana, June 2007
  • Adult male

    Rufous Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Orangish sides and undertail
    • Back usually orangish, may be green
    • Iridescent golden red throat and chin
    • Orangish face, orange or green crown
    • © Mike Wisnicki, British Columbia, May 2008
  • Adult male

    Costa's Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    • Iridescent purple crown and throat with long gorget
    • White eyebrow
    • Very small and compact
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, November 2008

Similar Species

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds don't overlap in range with other hummingbirds except the Black-chinned in central Texas (although other species do regularly turn up in eastern North America). Male Black-chinned Hummingbirds have a black throat with a purple-iridescent strip at the base. Male Anna's Hummingbirds have glittering red foreheads. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (males and females) have buffy flanks and rufous patches in the tail. Rufous Hummingbirds (males and females) have orange-rufous flanks and in the tail. Many female hummingbirds are very difficult to tell apart, particularly in flight when you can't get a good look at them. Female Black-chinned Hummingbirds have longer wings that reach the tip of the tail or go slightly beyond it. They also have flight feathers that widen slightly at the tip, giving each feather a slightly bulbous, club-shaped look. These species only overlap slightly in central and southern Texas.

Backyard Tips

You can attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to your backyard by setting up hummingbird feeders or by planting tubular flowers. Make sugar water mixtures with about one-quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Food coloring is unnecessary; table sugar is the best choice. Change the water before it grows cloudy or discolored and remember that during hot weather, sugar water ferments rapidly to produce toxic alcohol. Be careful about where you put your hummingbird feeders, as some cats have learned to lie in wait to catch visiting hummingbirds.

Find This Bird

Find Ruby-throated Hummingbirds by wandering flowering gardens or woodland edges at the height of summer, or by putting up a hummingbird feeder or visiting a friend who keeps them. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common in suburbs and towns, and can become quite bold, feeding at hanging plants and feeders on your porch or next to your windows.

Get Involved

Watch your feeders and report your counts of hummingbirds to Project FeederWatch

Look for Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

The Wonders of Spider Silk: expandable nests

Western Hummingbirds in the East: How to attract, identify, and report late-season vagrants to eBird

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