The Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris, belongs to the family Trochilidae and is currently included in the order Apodiformes. This small animal is the only species of hummingbird that regularly nests east of the Mississippi River in North America.
Adults are metallic green above and greyish white below, with near-black wings. Their bill is long, straight, and very slender. As in all hummingbirds, the toes and feet of this species are quite small. The species is sexually dimorphic. The adult male has a gorget of iridescent ruby red bordered narrowly with velvety black on the upper margin and a forked black tail with a faint violet sheen. The red iridescence is highly directional and appears dull black from many angles. The female has a notched tail with outer feathers banded in green, black, and white and a red throat that may be plain or lightly marked with dusky streaks or stipples. Males are smaller than females and have slightly shorter bills. Juvenile males resemble adult females, though usually with heavier throat markings. The plumage is molted once a year, beginning in late summer.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is migratory, spending most of the winter in southern Mexico and Central America, as far south as extreme western Panama, and the West Indies. It breeds throughout the eastern United States, east of the 100th meridian, and in southern Canada in eastern and mixed deciduous forest. In winter, it is seen mostly in Mexico.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are solitary. Adults of this species are not social, other than during courtship (which lasts a few minutes); the female also cares for her offspring. Both males and females of any age are aggressive toward other hummingbirds. They may defend territories, such as a feeding territory, attacking and chasing other hummingbirds that enter.
As part of their spring migration, portions of the population fly from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico across the Gulf of Mexico, arriving first in Florida and Louisiana. This feat is impressive, as a 800 km (500 mi), non-stop flight over water would seemingly require a caloric energy that far exceeds an adult hummingbird's body weight of 3 g. However, researchers discovered the tiny birds can double their fat mass to approximately one gram in preparation for their Gulf crossing, then expend the entire calorie reserve from fat during the 20 hour non-stop crossing when food and water are unavailable.
Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolic rates of any animal, with heart rates up to 1260 beats per minute, breathing rate of about 250 breaths per minute even at rest, and oxygen consumption of about 4 ml oxygen/g/hour at rest. During flight, hummingbird oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen for elite human athletes.
They feed frequently while active during the day. When temperatures drop, particularly on cold nights, they may conserve energy by entering hypothermic torpor.
Hummingbirds have many skeletal and flight muscle adaptations which allow the bird great agility in flight. Muscles make up 25–30% of their body weight, and they have long, blade-like wings that, unlike the wings of other birds, connect to the body only from the shoulder joint. This adaptation allows the wing to rotate almost 180°, enabling the bird to fly not only forward but fly backward, and to hover in front of flowers as it feeds on nectar or hovers mid-air to catch tiny insects. Hummingbirds are the only known birds that can fly backward. During hovering, (and likely other modes of flight) ruby-throated hummingbird wings beat 55 times per second.
These photos were taken at Pearson Metro Park, Toledo, OH