We were extremely surprised to find a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird today! While they’re not supposed to be uncommon, particularly if one has the appropriate feeder in their backyard, they certainly are hard to find due to their extreme speed and tiny size. Today, we saw one on a branch of a tree right in front of us while walking around the neighborhood! And even more surprisingly, we saw it fly away and return to the same branch again and again!
We were quite surprised when we found this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird! It landed on a branch of a tree right in front of us! It had its back to us and didn’t turn around. It soon flew away. We thought that would be it as there was nothing in the immediate area that seemed like it would be particularly attractive to a hummingbird. And our previous hummingbird sightings have been extremely brief.
We were quite surprised when the hummingbird came back about a minute later! This time, we got a great view of it from the side, almost as if it was posing for us!
This is how the hummingbird looked to the camera with an 800mm lens. One article on PetaPixel describes the human eye as roughly equivalent to the field of view presented by a 24mm lens. For non-photographers, the amount of “zoom” provided by a lens is described as a multiplier. Using those terms, we can think of this as a 33x zoom lens. That is alot. These birds are tiny!
To further describe how tiny Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are, there was a dragonfly on a branch below. These two photos are both identically sized crops. The hummingbird is definitely bigger, but not by much! It is too bad we didn’t spot any other birds on in the same area on the tree as everything else is substantially bigger.
The hummingbird briefly opened its mouth and stuck out a bit of its tongue! The hummingbird flew away after a minute or so. We thought that would be it. After all, what are the chances of it coming back?
It came back! And once again, flew away. We were never able to get a still photo of it in flight. We tried. But our reaction time is longer than the bird’s speed! Though to be fair to other species, most of the smaller birds are incredibly fast when launching off a branch.
And, it returned again! We don’t know where it kept flying to while it was gone. They’re simply too quick and fast.
The species name, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, implies a red throat. But that color is only for the males. Females have a white throat. However, immature males may have some red colored feathers. This one does! It was only visible at this particular angle. So we’re thinking this is an immature male!
The hummingbird turned around, showing its beautiful iridescent feathers before flying off once again.
It returned, once again, a few minutes later!
Birds of all sizes show some common behavior. Like scratching itches! These hummingbirds have absolutely tiny legs and feet, resulting in quite a silly look as they scratch themselves!
Since the hummingbird was too fast to photograph while flying away, we figured we’d try a video. Video is extremely low resolution compared to photography with modern cameras. a 4K video is about 8 megapixels while the Canon R5 has a 45 megapixel sensor. So unfortunately, while the cropped photos are still quite sharp when viewed on a monitor, these cropped videos are absolutely not. And, as they were shot handheld, software image stabilization had to be used so that the bird isn’t jumping around everywhere! Also, unfortunately we were near a highway so there is quite a bit of background noise.
Once again, the hummingbird came back about a minute later!
It didn’t stay long, it ended up flying away soon after we started taking video!
And yes, it came back a minute or so later!
A bit more action this time in the video! The hummingbird rubs the side of its beak on the branch which is something we’ve seen many other species do. The hummingbird also very quickly opens its mouth a bit and does a bit of wing flapping.
And, its back! This is probably the most number of times we’ve seen a bird of any species return to an almost identical perch. Some species are known for this behavior though we’ve never heard of this species doing this regularly.
We got a little bit more video this time. A whole 11 seconds before it flew away!
The next time the hummingbird came back, we didn’t bother with still photography. We went right into video.
This time, we got 48 seconds of video! At one point, the hummingbird stuck out its very long tongue. It is much longer than what we photographed earlier.
We decided to leave after this video, not that the hummingbird seemed to care at all about our presence. This was certainly one of the most unexpected birding moments we’ve had in awhile!