Hummingbird spends winter in Mexico

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sometimes referred to as a "hummer," the ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the world's smallest birds. It is the most widespread hummingbird in North America, found throughout most of the eastern half of the United States. It is a migratory bird that spends cold months in Mexico and warm months in the U.S. It normally arrives back in Southeast Missouri in mid-March each spring.

Adult males have a bright red feather patch on its throat. Females and juveniles have white throats with possibly a tiny red feather or two. In this photo I show what I believe to be a juvenile female.

In a woodland situation you will most likely hear the hum of this tiny bird's rapid wing beat before you will see it. Their fussy vocalization might be compared to a tiny squeak toy.

An adult ruby-throated hummingbird has a wing span of between 3 and 4 inches and tiny short legs. Its beak is long compared to its body. It has a long tongue, which helps it reach the nectar deep inside flowers with long throats such as trumpet vine blossoms. Close observation of these tiny birds will reveal that they also eat insects like mosquitoes and small spiders.

Hummers can fly faster than most birds and are the only birds capable of flying backward.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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