Ruby-throated hummingbirds

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

By Wayne Hinshaw
For the Salisbury Post
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are such fascinating tiny birds, about the size of your finger. They dart through our yards in the summer, creating a buzz we often mistake for June bugs or bumblebees. With their wings beating at 75-80 strokes per second, we hardly get to see the beauty of the little creatures.
I’ve photographed them many times, but it is always a challenge to capture good photos. You must wait for them at a feeder filled with sweet sugar water or test your luck waiting at a bright flower garden where they will come for nectar.
I was excited to see a hummingbird nest for the first time. In my 40-plus years of photography in Rowan County, I had never seen a local nest until Donnel Miller of Jane Road called me about a nest in a maple tree on the banks of High Rock Lake.
The female bird constructs her nest using flower petals, fibers and bud scales. She covers the outside of the nest with green and gray lichens, held in place by spider’s silk or webs from tent caterpillars’ nests. With spider’s silk, they attach their nest to tree branches that are slanted downward. The nest is only 11/2 inches in diameter. Usually they lay two pea-size white eggs. They can produce two or three broods each season.
The male birds are the most striking in color, with metallic green over soft white below. They have brilliantly colored throats of ruby red that glow when the light hits their necks. The female birds are metallic green on their backs and heads, with white on their chests and a small about of coloring on their sides. Their tail feathers are black with white tips.
The little birds are fighters in protecting their nest and feeder territory. They show no hesitation in flying head-to-head with a larger bird that crosses their territory. On the other hand, the larger birds cannot match the hummingbird for speed and maneuverability.