Vol. 2, No. 3 – The Ruby-Throated Humming Bird

The Ruby-throated Humming Bird or Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

The Ruby-throated Humming Bird or Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897


Is it a gem, half bird,
Or is it a bird, half gem?
—Edgar Fawcett.


F all animated beings this is the most elegant in form and the most brilliant in colors, says the great naturalist Buffon. The stones and metals polished by our arts are not comparable to this jewel of Nature. She has it least in size of the order of birds, maxime miranda in minimis. Her masterpiece is the Humming bird, and upon it she has heaped all the gifts which the other birds may only share. Lightness, rapidity, nimbleness, grace, and rich apparel all belong to this little favorite. The emerald, the ruby, and the topaz gleam upon its dress. It never soils them with the dust of earth, and its aerial life scarcely touches the turf an instant. Always in the air, flying from flower to flower, it has their freshness as well as their brightness. It lives upon their nectar, and dwells only in the climates where they perennially bloom.

All kinds of Humming birds are found in the hottest countries of the New World. They are quite numerous and seem to be confined between the two tropics, for those which penetrate the temperate zones in summer stay there only a short time. They seem to follow the sun in its advance and retreat; and to fly on the zephyr wing after an eternal spring.

The smaller species of the Humming birds are less in size than the great fly wasp, and more slender than the drone. Their beak is a fine needle and their tongue a slender thread. Their little black eyes are like two shining points, and the feathers of their wings so delicate that they seem transparent. Their short feet, which they use very little, are so tiny one can scarcely see them. They rarely alight during the day. They have a swift continual humming flight. The movement of their wings is so rapid that when pausing in the air, the bird seems quite motionless. One sees him stop before a blossom, then dart like a flash to another, visiting all, plunging his tongue into their hearts, flattening them with his wings, never settling anywhere, but neglecting none. He hastens his inconsistencies only to pursue his loves more eagerly and to multiply his innocent joys. For this light lover of flowers lives at their expense without ever blighting them. He only pumps their honey, and for this alone his tongue seems designed.

The vivacity of these small birds is only equaled by their courage, or rather their audacity. Sometimes they may be seen furiously chasing birds twenty times their size, fastening upon their bodies, letting themselves be carried along in their flight, while they peck fiercely until their tiny rage is satisfied. Sometimes they fight each other vigorously. Impatience seems their very essence. If they approach a blossom and find it faded, they mark their spite by a hasty rending of the petals. Their only voice is a weak cry of Screp, screp, frequent and repeated, which they utter in the woods from dawn until at the first rays of the sun they all take flight and scatter over the country.

The Ruby-throat is the only native Humming bird of eastern North America, where it is a common summer resident from May to October, breeding from Florida to Labrador. The nest is a circle an inch and a half in diameter, made of fern wood, plant down, and so forth, shingled with lichens to match the color of the branch on which it rests. Its only note is a shrill, mouse-like squeak.
From col. F. M. Woodruff. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Ray’s Wildlife


Dear Young Folks:

I fancy you think I cannot stop long enough to tell you a story, even about myself. It is true, I am always busy with the flowers, drinking their honey with my long bill, as you must be busy with your books, if you would learn what they teach. I always select for my food the sweetest flowers that grow in the garden.

Do you think you would be vain if you had my beautiful colors to wear? Of course, you would not, but so many of my brothers and sisters have been destroyed to adorn the bonnets and headdresses of the thoughtless that the children cannot be too early taught to love us too well to do us harm. Have you ever seen a ruby? It is one of the most valued of gems. It is the color of my throat, and from its rare and brilliant beauty I get a part of my name. The ruby is worn by great ladies and, with the emerald and topaz, whose bright colors I also wear, is much esteemed as an ornament.

If you will come into the garden in the late afternoon, between six and seven o’clock, when I am taking my supper, and when the sun is beginning to close his great eye, you will see his rays shoot sidewise and show all the splendor of my plumage. You will see me, too, if your eyes are sharp enough, draw up my tiny claws, pause in front of a rose, and remain seemingly motionless. But listen, and you will hear the reason for my name—a tense humming sound. Some call me a Hummer indeed.

I spend only half the year in the garden, coming in May and saying farewell in October. After my mate and I are gone you may find our nest. But your eyes will be sharp indeed if they detect it when the leaves are on the trees, it is so small and blends with the branches. We use fern-wool and soft down to build it, and shingle it with lichens to match the branch it nests upon. You should see the tiny eggs of pure white. But we, our nest and our eggs, are so dainty and delicate that they should never be touched. We are only to be looked at and admired.

Farewell. Look for me when you go a-Maying.




Range—Eastern North America to the Plains north to the fur countries, and south in winter to Cuba and Veragua.

Nest—A circle an inch and a half in diameter, made of fern wool, etc., shingled with lichens to match the color of the branch on which it is saddled.

Eggs—Two; pure white, the size of soup beans.

Hummingbird nest in Central Am by Bob-Nan

Hummingbird nest by Bob-Nan

Lee’s Addition:

Like birds hovering, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; He will protect and deliver it, He will pass over and spare and preserve it. (Isaiah 31:5 AMP)

The Lord has created another fantastic little bird. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is 7–9 cm (2.8–3.5 in) long and has a 8–11 cm (3.1–4.3 in) wingspan.  Adults are metallic green above and greyish white below, with near-black wings. Their bill, at up to 2 cm (0.79 in), is long, straight and very slender. As in all hummingbirds, the toes and feet of this species are quite small, with a middle toe of around 0.6 cm (0.24 in) and a tarsus of approximately 0.4 cm (0.16 in). The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can only shuffle if it wants to move along a branch, though it can scratch its head and neck with its feet.

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 backwards, 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 backwards. During hovering, (and likely other modes of flight) ruby-throated hummingbird wings beat 55 times per second.

The Hummingbirds are in the Trochilidae – Hummingbirds Family and there are 342 species (IOC 3.1) members. I think they are one of the neatest families that the Creator designed. They are so colorful and many have an iridescent shine to them when they turn in the sun just the right way.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is a small hummingbird. It is the only species of hummingbird that regularly nests east of the Mississippi River in North America.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) -Turkey Run SP

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) -Turkey Run SP by Lee

The breeding habitat is throughout most of eastern North America and the Canadian prairies, in deciduous and pine forests and forest edges, orchards, and gardens. The female builds a nest in a protected location in a shrub or a tree. Of all North American hummingbirds, this species has the largest breeding range.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is migratory, spending most of the winter in southern Mexico, Central America as far south as South America, 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.


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for September 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The House Wren

The Previous Article – The Cuckoo

Wordless Birds


Ruby-throated Hummingbird – All About Birds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Wikipedia

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – National Geographic