Hummingbirds

hummingbird 3Since we’re entering the hummingbird season in our part of Florida (mid-March-October), we put out a nectar feeder to see if we could get some action.
 
With all the bird species in nature, why invite one specific type of bird into our yard? The answer: along with being colorful, Hummingbirds are especially amazing.
 
There are nearly 10,000 bird species in the world. Of those, there are more than 325 distinct hummingbird species. And of those 325, only eight species regularly breed in the United States. And approximately two dozen vagrant hummingbird species regularly visit the U.S. on their flight to somewhere else.
Geography
Hummingbirds only live in the Western Hemisphere. There are no hummingbirds found outside of aviaries and zoos in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia or Antarctica.
Size
hummingbird 2Hummingbirds belong to the avian family Trochilidae. They are small (weighing 2 to 20 grams — 0.07 to 0.70 ounces).
 
The average ruby-throated hummingbird, which we hope to see here in the Southeastern United States, weighs just 3 grams. To put that into perspective, it would take more than 150 ruby-throated hummingbirds to tip the scale at one pound.
 
Roughly a quarter of a hummingbird’s weight is concentrated in its pectoral muscles.
 
At 2.25 inches in length, the bee hummingbird — found only in Cuba — is the smallest hummingbird species in the world.
 
At just three inches in length, the calliope hummingbird (southwestern Canada and Washington, Oregon, and northern California) is the smallest bird species in North America.
 
Not surprisingly, because of their tiny size, hummingbirds have the fewest number of feathers of any bird species in the world — 1,000-1,500 feathers.
Characteristics
Many of the common names for hummingbird species focus on the color of its gorget, the colorful, small, stiff, iridescent feathers on the throat and upper chest that give these tiny birds a metallic spectral coloring.
Flight
A hummingbird’s wings beat between 50 and 200 times a second — up to 12,000 times per minute — depending on the purpose of the flight and flying conditions.
 
They are able to hover as well as propel themselves forward, backward, and even upside down.
 
In order to survive, they need to stay in nearly a constant state of motion.
Physical
An average hummingbird’s heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute. (For comparison, if your heart rate goes above 100, someone starts thinking about calling the EMTs.)
 
At rest, a hummingbird takes about 250 breaths per minute. In flight, that rate increases substantially.
Breeding
Smaller than a jelly bean, hummingbird eggs are less than a half inch long. As if identifying hummingbird species wasn’t hard enough, Anna’s, black-chinned, Allen’s, Costa’s, rufous, calliope and broad-tailed hummingbirds can breed together to
create hybrid species.
Motion
Hummingbirds cannot walk or hop. They are able to move laterally on a branch though, and they can use their feet for scratching and preening.
 
A hummingbird’s top horizontal flight speed is about 30 miles per hour; they can double that speed in a dive.
Migration
The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any hummingbird species — more than 3,000 miles from their nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to their winter home in Mexico.
 
The ruby-throated hummingbird flies 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico —
an 18 to 20-hour flight — during both its spring and fall migrations; a thousand miles a
year.
Life Expectancy
Hummingbirds can live in the wild as many as 12 years.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Hummingbirds in Your Yard
Attraction
Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but have very keen eyesight. They are attracted to bright colors (which is why so many hummingbird feeders feature bright red). Brightly colored flowers that hummingbirds can see from the air will help get their attention. They also love water, especially moving water so a sprinkler or bubbling fountain can bring them to your yard.
Nutrition
hummingbird 1With their incredibly high metabolism, hummingbirds consume more than twice their body weight daily. They feed 5 to 8 times per hour. In addition to nectar, they also eat small insects and spiders, and may also consume tree sap or juice from broken fruits.
 
Hummingbirds do not suck nectar through their long bills; they actually lick it with their fringed, forked tongues. They lick as many as 15 times per second while feeding.
 
Hummingbirds digest natural sucrose — the sugar found in floral nectar — in 20 minutes with 97 percent efficiency for converting the sugar into energy.
 
You can make your own nectar for a hummingbird feeder by mixing one cup of plain white granulated table sugar with four cups of just boiled water. Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders. Never add dye to the water. (And stay away from sweeteners like honey and brown sugar that go rancid faster and can make hummingbirds sick.)
Environment
​Serious birders who are also blessed with a green thumb, grow various types of plants that flower at different times, so the hummingbirds will have blooms to feed on throughout the season.
 
If you decide to plant a hummingbird garden, here are some of the best flowering plants to consider:  bee balm, cardinal flower, trumpet creeper, daylilies, impatiens, petunias, coral honeysuckle, and columbines.
 
If you’re able to attract some hummingbirds, your efforts will pay off since they are able to remember food sources so well that they often return to the same place year after year.
Social
Hummingbirds are antisocial. When more than one hummingbird is around, you may witness frequent high-speed chases. And despite their small size, hummingbirds are unafraid to attack jays, crows and hawks that infringe on their territory.
 
Backyard birders have reported having one dominant hummingbird that guards all their feeders, chasing any intruders away.
 
They are so committed to protecting their feeding area from all others, that male and female hummingbirds do not form a pair-bond after mating; the female is left to care for eggs and chicks alone.

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