BASIC FACTS ABOUT HUMMINGBIRDS
Hummingbirds are small, colorful birds with iridescent feathers. Their name comes from the fact that they flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backward, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They have a specialized long and tapered bill that is used to obtain nectar from the center of long, tubular flowers. The hummingbird’s feet are used for perching only and are not used for hopping or walking.
Each year, hummingbirds embark on two migrations – one north and one south. These migratory journeys, which can span hundreds or thousands of miles, require extensive preparation and a shocking amount of energy from these small birds - the smallest in the world. Their spring migration north, from South America and Mexico up to Canada, is a solitary journey with the goal of getting to their breeding grounds early enough to claim the best feeding territories. With that sort of pressure, this hummingbird migration can begin as early as February in Mexico and finish in mid-May in Canada and Alaska.
The fall southern hummingbird migration follows a similar timeframe. Hummingbirds can set out as early as late July, and the last stragglers will cross the southern U.S. border by late October. It’s this amazing cycle of hummingbird migration that can also bring a sudden swarm of activity to your hummingbird feeders. If you have a well-maintained hummingbird feeder, expect plenty of new visitors as they try to boost their energy before the next stage of their journey.
It is difficult to estimate population numbers since many different species are spanning a large geographic area
Hummingbirds are found only in the Western Hemisphere, from southeastern Alaska to southern Chile, although most live in the tropics. There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds, 12 of which summer in North America and winter in tropical areas.
Hummingbirds primarily eat flower nectar, tree sap, insects, and pollen. The hummingbird’s fast breathing rate, rapid heartbeat, and high body temperature require that they eat often. They also need an enormous amount of food each day. Hummingbirds have a long tongue which they use to lick their food at a rate of up to 13 licks per second.
Like other birds, hummingbirds communicate via visual displays. Hummingbirds are very territorial and have been observed chasing each other and even larger birds such as hawks away from their territories.
Gestation: 13-22 days.
Clutch size: Between 1-3 eggs.
The young start to fly in 18 to 30 days.