Rubies with black heads

nanny56(IN 5b)September 19, 2007

Why do some Ruby Throat Hummingbirds have the black heads and some don't?

We didn't get a lot of hummers where we lived before, so this was a new revelation to us this year at our new home.

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Enjoy your rubythroats, they're packed with personality.
Depending on how light hits the feathers they can appear to be black. In full light the feathers will look red.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 11:00AM
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nanny56(IN 5b)

I am talking about the entire head not the gorget. I know it can appear blck depending on how the light hits it. I dont have any good close up photos to show one, but they look like the Black Chinned Humming Bird. I hand hold my feeders so I am seeing them up close.

We have really enjoyed all our hummers this year and are looking forward to next year even more!!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 4:24PM
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nygirl30(new york)

All my males have blackheads.. That i have noticed, the females just have green on there heads..

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 8:38PM
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My thought is that the immature hummers dont have their true colors as yet. The adult male and females have a darker richer color. The hummers we are seeing now are immatures for the most part.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 9:59PM
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But nanny56 said the entire head. Female and immature rubies don't look like they have entirely black heads from any angle. Males do though and I think lv6b is right that nanny56 is seeing males from bad angles.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 1:19PM
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I've never seen a Ruby-throat of any age or of either sex that had a black head. The iridescent red throat can look black, but I've never seen the top of the head looking black. I'm puzzled. Either you've got some mighty strange birds coming round, or it must be a lighting issue. I wish you had some photos for us to look at.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 6:47PM
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nanny56(IN 5b)

not a really good photo. It is not the light remember I sometimes hold the feeder and they come in so they are onlt inches from my face.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 7:44PM
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Lighting issue.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 11:38AM
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Hi nanny56,

Male rubythroats do have black(ish) heads. We really only see their ruby colors by way of refraction of light against their fine feathers.

These two very closeup photos of the same bird illustrate this:

hope this helps,


Here is a link that might be useful: Lots more hummer closeups

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 1:52PM
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Besides the dark heads and gorget, Ive always thought all the coloration of an adult male is deeper richer and much easier to spot from any angle.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 6:50PM
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nanny56(IN 5b)

Those do not resemble what I am talking about and they are only 3-6 inches in front of me. A friend we know in Boone County has them too. They look like Black-Chinned Hummingbirds.

Ahh well, I can't convince you, but I know what we have seen.......and they don't all have the black head, some look just like the above, the normal RB.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 7:04PM
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The bird in your picture looks exactly like the bird in the pictures kenn3d posted and exactly like the male Rubythroat in the Sibley guide to me. Do you have the Sibley guide? If so take a look at the side views of male Rubythroat and Blackchin. It shows that Blackchin has a longer bill, shorter tail and more rounded wing than the bird in your photo. But if you really think you've got several rare birds visiting your yard you should notify your local Audubon society.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 8:07PM
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nanny56(IN 5b)

No I don't have that guide. I don't think it is a rare bird, I just noticed that there was a difference between some of them and have this friend who has noticed the same. She told me they are sometimes referred to as Blackcapped RubyThroats and she has been bird watching for along time. So figured it is a genetic thing and was curious about what might cause it. But thanks for the responses anyway.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 10:18PM
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nanny56-- To tell you the truth IM not sure what a black chinned looks like , need to check it out. Its just that mainly all we see in this part of the country are RT and a very rare rufous on occasion, but have been spotted in Indiana southwest.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 8:59AM
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Maybe they're mating with chickadees? ;) But seriously Blackcapped Rubythroat doesn't fit your descrition. By that standard I'd call what you're describing a BlackHEADED Rubythroat. If there really was such a mutation or whatever and it cropped up more then once in a blue moon you'd think it would be mentioned in a book or on the web somewhere. If it is I sure can't find it. Nancy Newfield is a hummingbird expert from Louisiana who posts on other hummingbird forums. Even though she's pretty famous she doesn't seem to mind answering questions. You should go to one of those forums and ask her.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 2:40PM
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rita_h(PNW 8b)

A mature male Anna's Hummingbird has purple-red iridescent feathers completely covering his head and neck, like a hood, sometimes ending with a little point at the nape. In indirect light, the hood looks black.

Maybe you've seen a lost windblown Anna's?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 12:03PM
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We have been getting hummingbirds with black heads and a red band on their throats when the light hits it just right. They also make a sound when they fly that sounds kind of like a loose fan belt on a vehicle. I think they are Ruby Throated hummers, but I live in Nevada and from what I have read they are only in the eastern US. Could someone please tell me what type of hummer this could be? Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 12:20PM
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I have both Black Chinned and Ruby Throated hummers here. I don't think BC's go that far north to IN, but we have many more of them here this year than previous years. So who knows.

One way to distinguish the two species is during hovering. The BC hummer's tails are very active when hovering, waving rapidly up and down. The RT's tails are more still. It's the easiest way to tell them apart.

Also, when perched the BC's wing tips are the same length as the tail feathers, whereas the RT's wing tips are just a little shorter than the wing tips.

If you get a close look at the female from above, the back of RT's head will have the same green with gold heighligts as on her back. The BC female will have more gray on the head.

My feeders are in shade most of the day, and I rarely get a good look at the color on the male's gorget. They all look black unless I see them straight from the front in bright sunlight. The RT gives the striking red, but the BC male shows black with only a faint bit of purple low on the gorget.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 6:50PM
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rowdy13(9a Valrico)

If you're in Nevada, you're likely seeing Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. The gorget is actually a rose to color instead of the ruby color of the Ruby-throated but the color seen can change with the lighting. The flight sound is produced by the tip of outer most wing feather. This feather on adult male Broad-taileds is different from the young or females as well as other hummingbirds. The shape results in the tip vibrating in flight which produces the sound. Sheri Williamson describes the sound in the Peterson Field Guide, Hummingbirds in North America, as "Modified wingtips create bright silvery trill in flight, like the ringing of tiny bells".

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 10:36AM
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Nanny, this is what you would see if your black headed males are the Black Chinned. You say you see them up close so you should look for the purple color in the gorget.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 6:08PM
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I live in East Texas. The past couple of weeks I've seen many hummingbirds with black heads, grey throats and black backs. I'd like to know what they are but haven't been able to identify them....

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 11:57PM
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Some of the one here in fl. are very dark, I say they have black heads. I see them up close too. I even saw one that was black all over except the front it was gray.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 7:57PM
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All of my Ruby Throats have black heads, especially the males. Although---I think if I catch one and hold him out in the sunlight, the black head will be green or bright red on the throat. All my feeders are in the shade and I very seldom get a chance to see the red throat, but I know it is there.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:18PM
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I have rubies with black heads in northern mn this year. I have never had any hummers come to my feeder that arent green and red. Has anyone figured it out yet?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 6:17PM
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