02.11.18: Hummingbird

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits a thistle flower in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

Aug. 25, 2007,
9:09 a.m.

40°6’50” N,
82°57'30" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm)  


1/800th second


I don’t get many opportunities to photograph hummingbirds during my nature hikes. I occasionally see them fly by, but they are often gone before I can get the camera in position.

The birds flow through life at a high speed, much faster than I can operate a camera in most instances. But I’ve been fortunate to capture a few nice photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds through the years, which is difficult because of their speed, constant motion and small size — only about three inches in length.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only hummingbird that is regularly found in the Eastern United States (including Central Ohio where I live). Most other hummingbird species found in the U.S. are in the southwest.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are bright emerald or golden-green on the crown and back. Males have an iridescent ruby throat (hence the name). Females, like this one photographed in a field north of Columbus, Ohio, do not.

There were several hummingbirds and a number of bees feeding on blooming thistle in this field on a late-August morning. I found a cluster of thistle plants that were receiving repeated visits from hummingbirds so I pointed my camera in that direction and waited. After a couple of minutes, this hummingbird showed up.

As I was capturing some shots I saw movement near my face in my peripheral vision. I assumed it was a bee and glanced that direction. That’s when I noticed another hummingbird hovering about a foot from my head. It would look at me, pivot slightly to look at the camera and long lens, then pivot back to look at me again.

It reminded me of a pesky character that I saw in cartoons when I was a kid. “What are you doing? Taking pictures? That’s a nice lens. Are you photographing hummingbirds? Can I watch? Come here often? That’s a nice lens. What are you doing? Taking pictures?”

The hummingbird kept it’s position for about 20 seconds, constantly pivoting between viewing me and the camera.  Then it flew off, I guess after determining I wasn’t a threat.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest in our area during the summer. A few years ago a nesting couple made a home in a tree in our front yard, just outside our bedroom window. A hummingbird’s nest is tiny, about two inches across and an inch deep, and is built on top of a limb. The male doesn’t hang around long, leaving the female to tend to the nest and the young.

When summer ends, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird heads for Central America, often crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.