South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

Length: 3.5 to 3.75 inches Wingspan: 4.25 to 4.50 inches Seasonality: Summer/Migrant
ID Keys: Deep red throat (male), white chest, green sides, black slightly forked tail

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubrisThe Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only hummingbird commonly found in the eastern United States, and is the only hummingbird commonly found in the eastern half of South Dakota.  They have only rarely been found breeding in South Dakota, but given their presence throughout the summer, especially in the extreme eastern portion of the state, they are likely consistent breeders in the state.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird migrates non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico to its normal wintering grounds in Central America.  A male is pictured in the photo on the right, with its deep ruby-throat giving the species its name.  Additional photos, including those of a female, can be found at the bottom of the page

Habitat:  Can be found in a wide variety of semi-open habitats with suitable feeding locations

Diet: Feeds primarily on nectar from flowers.  Also will take a variety of small insects and spiders.  They occasionally have been found feeding on the sap wells created by the various species of sapsuckers (see photo #7 at the bottom of the page).

Behavior: Other than during mating season, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are often not very social.  Although numbers may be found in the same general area, individual birds will often vigorously defend prime feeding patches.  Extremely active during daylight hours, their day primarily consists of feeding, with short periods of rest in between. 

Nesting: June through August.  The nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a small cup built of fibrous plant material and plant down, cemented together with spider webs.  The outside is often covered with moss, lichen, or other material.  The female lays 2 eggs, and she alone incubates them.  After the eggs hatch, the female alone feeds the young. The young fledge after about 3 weeks.

Song: Ruby-throated Hummingbird Song

Migration: Summers throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and extreme southern Canada.  Primarily winters in Mexico and Central America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Ruby-throated Hummingbird sightings

Similar Species: Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird

Feeders:  Will attend feeders for sugar water.  Will attend flower gardens for nectar.

Conservation Status: They are found over a wide geographic area, are common in many parts of their range, and may be increasing in number.  The IUCN lists the Ruby-throated Hummingbird as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Ruby-throated Hummingbird

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Ruby-throated Hummingbird"

3) Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Photo Information: June 10th, 2008 - Our house in Brandon, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Ruby-throated Hummingbird photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant and summer resident in the eastern part of the state.  Rare visitor in the western part of the state.