Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Male Named Ruby

I see far fewer male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds than females. That is borne out by the number of photos of males that I have taken, which is less than 3%.

Males have different motives when they stake out their territory than females. They try to create a breeding territory that can allow them to encounter large numbers of females (they are not monogamous). Females, on the other hand, are more interested in quality nesting sites.

The iridescent neck plumage, called the gorget, immediately identifies the bird as a male. Here in the U. S., east of the Mississippi River, it is unusual to see any other hummingbird but a Ruby-throat.

The structure of the feathers themselves amplify certain wavelengths of light. They are also raised up in a 3-D shape so that the color flashes when the male faces forward. The color can change if the male is facing another direction and appears more golden in this image — although many times, the gorget simply looks black.

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