Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Length: 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm)
Identification: Having a forked tail, the male also has a ruby-red throat
patch. The female's throat is dingy white, but both female and male have long straight
bills. The female has a white-tipped, forked tail, compared to the male's blackish
tail. A similar, but slightly larger broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycerus)
of the mountainous western US is often mistaken for the ruby-throated hummingbird,
but the broad-tailed hummingbird does not have the forked tail of the ruby-throated.
Habitat and range: Found essentially east of the Mississippi River, this North
American hummer inhabits woodlands, gardens, orchards, and suburban areas.
FYI: Hitching a ride on the backs of a larger bird to cross a large body of
water, e.g., the Gulf of Mexico, is not only untrue but unnecessary for the hummingbird.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds build up their body weight by 40 to 50 per cent before
migrating from Louisiana and landing on the Yucatan Peninsula. Source: Alexander
F. Skutch, The Life of the Hummingbird (New York: Vineyard Books, Inc., 1973), pp.
38-39. Needing more than the nectar and pollen of flowers, they -- like all hummingbirds
-- must eat small insects (especially spiders) as a protein supplement. Among warm-blooded
vertebrate, only the shrew has a faster metabolism than the hummingbird, necessitating
a nearly constant feeding, just to stay alive. Source: "Ruby-throated Hummingbird,"
Book of North American Birds (Pleasantville, New York: Reader's Digest Association,
Inc., 1990), p. 195. In 1907, Althea R. Sherman found that a hummingbird can
consume double its body weight in sugar every day. Source: Alexander F. Skutch,
The Life of the Hummingbird (New York: Vineyard Books, Inc., 1973), p. 33.
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