Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

I’ve been enjoying photographing the hummingbirds lately–or trying, as both their size and speed pose some inherent challenges.

For those who aren’t familiar, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most common species of hummingbird in eastern North America. Individuals range in length from 2.8-3.5 in (7-9cm) and weigh approximately 0.1-0.2oz (2-6 g). They migrate to Central America for the winter and typically return sometime in mid-to-late April. Males arrive first to establish their territories and females follow. This year, I put my feeder out earlier than usual in the hopes of enticing a male to claim the yard as part of his territory. And I believe I have been successful.

This is “Monsieur”. (I was sitting outside reading Les Mis when I spotted him for the first time. The name seemed only appropriate.) At present, this is the best photograph I have of Monsieur. His throat feathers are actually ruby-colored; although, the light often makes them look black, as they (mostly) do here. It is my goal to get a good, clear photograph of Monsieur’s ruby throat feathers before summer’s end. That was a feat I wasn’t able to accomplish last year, despite my best efforts; so, this year, I am determined to do so.

This pretty lady is “Madam,” who spends most of her day, every day, perched on a string of lights above the feeder, warding off invaders. Note that the female lacks a ruby throat.

Interestingly, I observed a courtship display between these two (or between Monsieur and another female, as Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are promiscuous, with a single male typically mating with multiple females) for the first time a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, but I did observe him flying back and forth in front of her in a steep “U,” or pendulum-shaped, flight. Because they’re such tiny birds, I imagine that, even if I had my camera on hand, getting a good quality video or photograph of the courtship flight would have been difficult.

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