Birdie beauty – hummingbird preening and grooming

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A6865© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A1226© Maria de Bruyn resIt has been great to welcome back the sun and dispel some of the gloom resulting from the record number of rainy days we’ve had. Watching the ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) in my yard and at nature reserves is also a day brightener and has taught me that these tiny avians are quite fastidious, grooming often and at length.

 

 

They cannot use their feet to hop or walk; they only cling to perches and shuffle a bit.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A0497© Maria de Bruyn resruby-throated hummingbird DK7A0499© Maria de Bruyn (2) res

They do use their claws as a “comb” to groom their heads and necks and to scratch itches.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7454© Maria de Bruyn resruby-throated hummingbird DK7A1811© Maria de Bruyn res

Using oil from a gland near their tail, they cover their iridescent feathers with the oil to help clean them.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A1112© Maria de Bruyn resruby-throated hummingbird DK7A1230© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A1754© Maria de Bruyn res ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A1756© Maria de Bruyn res

When you see them rubbing their long beaks on a twig, they are wiping off debris and pollen.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7094© Maria de Bruyn res

The youngest birds have a groove in their beak but this smooths out by the winter.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A5627© Maria de Bruyn res ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7105© Maria de Bruyn res

When the hummers look up in the sky, while sitting all puffed up on a branch, they may be taking a sun bath.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7969© Maria de Bruyn res ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7804© Maria de Bruyn res

A tiny catnap – or hummer nap – can also be observed now and then. This is understandable since their little hearts beat at 1220 times per minute while they fly; this lessens to about 250 times per minute when they are at rest.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A0060© Maria de Bruyn resruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7319© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A0389© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A7355© Maria de Bruyn res

 

 

You can sometimes tell the sex of the hummingbird by its tail feathers. The tips are white and rounded in both females and first-year males, who do not yet have fully colored throats

.
ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A2031© Maria de Bruyn

 

In the adult males, the tail feathers have sharp black points.

The red gorget (throat) feathers that give this species its common name are seen in the adult males. Very occasionally, a female will have one or two black or one red feather there, but it is generally a young male that has one red throat feather.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A6577© Maria de Bruynruby-throated hummingbird DK7A0610© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A2084© Maria de Bruyn res

 

After nesting, females may look somewhat tattered and molt their feathers, like this one in July. The regular molting period is autumn through about March and that is when the juvenile males develop their their red throats.

 

 

Both female and male ruby-throated hummers have a small patch of white feathers behind their dark eyes.

ruby-throated hummingbird DK7A8123© Maria de Bruynruby-throated hummingbird DK7A2409© Maria de Bruyn res

One thing is for sure – all these little avians are beautiful to see and watch!

More information:

http://www.hummingbirdworld.com/h/behavior.htm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s