Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Female

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Male
By Phil Brown


Hummingbirds are a thrill to watch! Their brain is about the size of a BB. The 
nest is constructed of plant down, spider webs, lichen & tree sap. Hummers 
eat about every 10 minutes. Their long tongues aid in nectaring. Hummingbirds’ 
hearts are larger proportionally to their body than any other bird or mammal. 
There are over 325 species of hummingbirds, making them the second largest 
family of birds in he world, second only to flycatchers. 

Here’s a primer on hummingbird vocabulary. You’ll appreciate these gems more & 
share their beauty knowing these terms… 

Bill – The bony, keratin-covered projection of a bird’s mouth – A hummingbird’s 
long, thin bill is specially designed for sipping nectar & is one of the most 
distinctive features of these birds. The length, thickness, color & curve of the bill 
varies by species. 

Dimorphic – The distinct physical differences between genders – Most hummingbird 
males are brightly colored & iridescent while females are plain, affording them 
to stay camouflaged while nesting. Young male hummingbirds often resemble 
females but will attain more color as they mature. 

Gorget – The brightly colored throat patch – Many male hummingbirds have 
distinctly colored gorgets that serve as key field marks for proper 
identification based on the gorget’s color & shape. The gorget is often flared 
to show off its brilliance while breeding or defending territory. 

Hyperphagia – A hormonally-induced state of extreme appetite & overeating prior 
to migration – Hummingbirds may increase their mass by 50 percent or more before 
migrating so they have enough energy for the journey. Bird feeders are 
especially important to help hummingbirds gain this weight. 

Insectivorous – A diet that consists primarily of insects – While hummingbirds 
are known for drinking nectar, they also eat a great number of insects as a 
source of protein, often picking them from spider webs or out of the air. 
Insects are especially important for young birds so they will develop properly. 

Iridescent – Shimmering feathers with metallic-like colors that may change color 
when seen from different angles – Many hummingbirds have iridescent throats & 
upperparts, & the exact colors, when seen in good light, are a key to proper 
hummingbird identification. 

Nectar – The sugary water produced by many flowers that is a main food source 
for hummingbirds – The exact sugar concentration of nectar from different flower 
types can vary. Use the simple recipe of sugar & water to fill hummingbird 
feeders ~ no red dye please! 

Nectivorous – A diet that consists primarily of nectar – All hummingbirds are 
nectivorous & may feed dozens of times a day, visiting different flowers & 
feeders. Hummingbird feeding is important for the pollination of many flowers, & 
hummingbirds will frequently visit nectar feeders as well. 


Using Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds by Chad Kremp