As we all know, summer is the peak of the ruby-throated hummingbird season. During the next two and a half months, we will see more hummingbirds at our feeders than at any other time of the year. These birds are adult males and females and their young. Have you ever wondered if it is possible to adult from immature rubythroats?
Although we can all tell an adult male rubythroat (it has a red gorget) from a female (white throat), unless you capture the females and closely examine their bills, it is next to impossible to separate immature from adult females. Such is not the case with the young males.
The throats of immature male ruby-throated hummingbirds are marked with a series of dark feathers arranged in rows that extend down the neck of the bird. Typically, by August one or two red gorget feathers will appear in the center of the bird’s throat. These feathers remind me of the stick pen commonly used by men to decorate their ties. As time goes on, more red feathers appear near the center of the young male’s throat. By the time, the hummingbirds leave in September a young male may display twenty or more gorget feathers in addition to the distinctive lines of spots. When he returns next spring, the dark streaks on its throat will have disappeared and he will sport a full red gorget.
Each summer I find it interested to see when I see the first hatching year male hummingbird finally arrives at my feeders. It is a sign that hummingbird numbers are on the upswing.