Ruby-throated hummingbird - Archilochus colubris

March 27, 2008


I went into the museum yesterday to do a little work and pick up my tickets for member's night. When I saw what had been set aside for me and the other volunteer, Juna, I was both excited and a bit intimidated. There were two female ruby throated hummingbirds. I had sort of been waiting for the day when I would be allowed to work on one. As you can imagine, because they are so tiny, they are tricky in terms of creating a good study skin. I couldn't get over the tiny perfection of the creature. She was smaller than my thumb. A couple of weeks prior to this, I received my new issue of Audubon, which had some extraordinary photos of different bird nests. The Anna Hummingbird's was the most exquisite. Hummingbird females use moss, lichen, caterpillar silk and spider webs to construct their marvels of nest architecture. The ladies are master crafters, and the results are so beautiful. The female Ruby-throated I worked on came out okay. I was told it was good for a hummingbird skin- hmmm. When I was looking at the skull, I could see the tiny hyoid apparatus. This is a forked, almost tube like structure made of tiny bones that wraps around the back to the bird's skull. It controls the tongue extension and allows for the tongue to extend far beyond its bill and into the deep nectar reservoirs in flowers. Woodpeckers have a similar structure to allow them to probe for insects in trees. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds belong to the family Trochilinae, of which all North American species belong. Ruby-throated is the only hummingbird that occurs here in the Eastern US. They winter in South America, and one of their known migration routes requires them to cross the Gulf of Mexico in one, non-stop Herculean flight.

This painting will be posted to the Etsy shop.

2 comments:

  1. Diana, your images and descriptions are precious. They are fitting tribute to the ephemeral loveliness. Your blog is such an inspiration to me. Best!

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