How to Sex a Ruby-throat Hummingbird – Lesson 4

Our fourth lesson is about RTHU wings.  Now we’re going to get a bit more technical and split hairs, or more precisely, split feathers. 

Having been lucky enough to spend nine days as a “citizen scientist” trapping, studying and releasing RTHUs in their Costa Rican wintering grounds with an expert naturalist, I can tell you the experienced eye of a professional determines the gender of the bird by examining the tips of its wing feathers!  Amazing!

It’s impossible to study this bird’s wing feather tips, of course.  But if I explain the variation we can apply what we know to this picture to see if we can guess. 

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Here’s lookin’ at you, Kid!

When the experienced naturalist spreads the RTHU’s wing feathers, s/he can observe the feather tips.  S/he looks for the #6 primary feather and observes if it is sharply pointed or rounded.  Male RTHUs have sharply pointed #6 primary wing feathers.  The female RTHU’s corresponding #6 is rounded. 

Okay, student bird spies.  Take as close a look as you can and see if you can tell if the 6th feather (from the top of the wing) is pointed or rounded.  (Heck, it’s a challenge just to figure out which feather is #6!)  Yes, it’s just a guess on our part now as we can’t hold the bird to spread and examine its wing feather tips. 

Interesting, nevertheless. 

We’ll wrap it up with Lesson 5.

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2 Responses to How to Sex a Ruby-throat Hummingbird – Lesson 4

  1. Very interesting. My Peterson’s field guide doesn’t get into that kind of detail!

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