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Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Leading Life of Leisure

7-28-15 hummer2  637Equality of the sexes has yet to reach some avian species. Among them is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the only species of hummingbird that breeds in the Northeast. After courtship and mating takes place, the male has next to no contact with his mate(s), possibly visiting them during nest construction, but he does not lift a feather to assist in raising their offspring. By herself the female selects a nest site, builds a nest (six to ten days), lays two eggs, incubates the eggs (12 – 14 days), broods them (9 days), removes their waste, or fecal sacs, for the first two days (after which the nestlings eject their droppings from the rim of the nest) and feeds them (a total of 22 – 25 days — while young are in nest, and for 4 – 7 days after they fledge). Males spend the summer feeding, preening, bathing, stretching their wings and fanning their tails, sleeping, roosting and sunbathing. Not a bad life for him; an exhausting one for her. (Thanks to Jeannie Killam and Terry Ross for photo op.)

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15 responses

  1. Treah

    It seems to me that the male hummingbirds spend most of their day fighting with & chasing each other which also must be exhausting.

    July 29, 2015 at 7:20 am

  2. Mary, Please don’t ever retire! I look forward to your pieces every morning. Love the photos, the information and your particular brand of humor!

    July 29, 2015 at 7:22 am

  3. Penny Lynch

    Sounds like a lot of human males I know…. 😉

    July 29, 2015 at 7:23 am

  4. Ricardo

    I wanted to be a dolphin in my next life, but I may have to reconsider….

    July 29, 2015 at 7:38 am

  5. Lynn Latimer

    extraordinary photo, such detail!! and the beak looks like a sewing needle. later my dearie 🙂


    July 29, 2015 at 7:40 am

  6. Connie Snyderr

    And during all that relaxing, looks to me like they devote a fair amount of energy to chasing young hummingbirds, (their own offspring?), as well as females, (their mates?) from the feeders.

    July 29, 2015 at 7:40 am

  7. Marilyn

    The “ruby” feathers look like meticulously pasted on glitter!

    July 29, 2015 at 7:54 am

  8. I agree with Connie; the males are so fierce around the feeders! It is amazing that the females with their high metabolic rate can brood on the nest for days and days without eating. They MUST leave occasionally if only for hydration/nectar?

    July 29, 2015 at 8:20 am

    • Hi Laurie,
      According to Cornell, the female is on the nest 72–75% of the daytime with 5–6 recesses for feeding per hour. Each time she leaves, she’s only gone for about 2 minutes.

      July 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm

  9. michelle saurette

    Thank you this is funny , yet we witness this each year.our feeders are quite a job, to keep filled and clean. The spectacular show of the courtship flights the males make are very interesting. It seems too that the males gaurs the feeders and shoe away the females before they breed with them.
    thanks again

    Many blessings,

    Outreach appointments available upon request,book a spa day with friends and shift together a wellness experience.
    Home office 250-547-2138
    “May today be one of your best days ……you control your own destiny”


    July 29, 2015 at 8:40 am

  10. Why am I not surprised?

    Phyllis B. Katz 23 Church Street Norwich, VT 05055 [] 802-649-7175

    My two books All Roads Go Where They Will (2010) and Migrations (2013) are available at The Norwich Bookstore,

    snail mail:

    Phyllis B. Katz P.O. Box 1048 Norwich, VT 05055


    July 29, 2015 at 8:50 am

  11. They seem very busy here, keeping each other away from the feeder. I was wondering how they could do any parenting, spending so much time being aggressive to each other–now I know. Now I also know why the poor females look so ragged and unkempt whenever they show up. Poor girls.

    July 29, 2015 at 10:46 am

  12. Not only a life of leisure, but a selfish one at that. He chases her away from the feeder when she tries to share in a little sugar water. I’ve heard the males will return south before the females and the fledges. Then the sugar water will belong to her.

    July 31, 2015 at 8:47 pm

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