Posted by: ktzefr | August 4, 2010

Ten Cool Things About Hummingbirds…

“Out of the stillness, a small splendor.” ~  Charles Wright, Littlefoot: A Poem

I’ve tried several times today to get a good picture of the hummingbirds that frequent my feeders, but they’re too quick.  The instant I get the camera aimed they’re off again.  I sit with binoculars and watch them preen themselves in the maple tree.  The old saying that hummingbirds never rest is ridiculous.  Not only does the female have to sit on the nest and incubate the eggs, but both sexes perch often to preen themselves and guard their food source.  They are very territorial.  All day Saturday we watched hummer wars.  A bird would perch on the feeder, take a drink, and be immediately dive-bombed by another one.

There are three regulars.  Ruby-throats.  They could be females or young males as they are all white-throated at the moment.  Since young males look much like the adult female, it will be interesting to see if any of them develop the telltale red at the throat before migration time.

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(Double click on the photos to enlarge; be sure to use the back arrow to return to this post.)

 

Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird, Costa Rica; Photo:MFawcett

In Costa Rica we were able to get up close and friendly with lots of hummers — from the Violet Sabrewing (above) to the Green-Crowned Brilliant (below).  There’s also a Cinnamon hummingbird that has a green back and cinnamon-colored chest, a Rufous-tailed with a square, red-brown tail, and birds in many shades of green from lime to pea green to iridescent emerald.  Several species frequent the feeders at Bosque de Paz in the cloud forest and some little roadside stops in the countryside have feeders that draw a crowd — both birds and birdwatchers.

Green Crowned-Brilliant Hummingbird, Costa Rica; Photo:KFawcett

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A few years back I bought a lovely blown glass hummingbird feeder with a drinking spout but no perch.  It looked very pretty in the garden, but the only visitors all summer, to my knowledge, were the bumble bees.  It seemed that every time I looked out the window a bee was stuck to the pretty glass bauble.  The next year I bought a cheap, plastic, old-fashioned feeder with several feeding holes and the birds loved it.  Now I have two of these to accommodate the extra birds, but it’s a no go.  The little bird who claims this territory claims ALL the feeders in his/her line of sight.  So I move them around, tuck one behind the windchimes and the morning glories, to block the view from one to the other.    It’s amusing to sit on the porch and watch the little guy in the maple watching the feeders, waiting to attack.  In a standoff they twitter a lot, fly upright in place facing each other, and swoop here and there at dizzying speeds.

Ten interesting hummer facts:

1)  A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second.

2)  The first explorers called them Joyas Voladoras — flying jewels.

3)  They can fly backwards, and they can dive at 60 miles per hour.

4)  They can fly hundreds of miles (some migrate each year across the Gulf of Mexico, for example) without stopping to rest.

5)  When hummingbirds sleep, their hearts barely beat; if they get too cold, they die.

6)  There are more than 300 species of hummers.

7)  They suffer heart attacks more than any other living creature.

8)  Hummers vary in size from the 2 1/4 inch Fairy hummingbird of Cuba to the 8 1/2 inch Patagonia gigas, the giant of the Andes.

9)  Hummingbirds are strictly New World birds, found only in the Americas — from southern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

10) With the exception of insects, hummingbirds while in flight have the highest metabolism of all animals…


…which brings me to consider this last bit of hummer trivia.  The little birds eat a lot and they eat often, but they also stay on the move and don’t sport a milligram of extra fat.  Guess I’ll get up and take a long walk before dinner. 🙂

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Responses

  1. awesome commentary about the hummingbirds and your patience paid off looking at the wonderful photos. Nice work…

    • Thanks!!

  2. Oh, how I love the hummers! “Flying Jewels” is so perfect.

    • I just wish my backyard hummers would share the goodies instead of fighting!!

  3. I echo Beth’s comment! And #11 is: hummingbirds have 1500 feathers! At least that’s what I read somewhere recently. Wonderful post Katie!

    p.s. cannot wait to read ‘To Come and Go Like Magic’ & Beth’s ‘Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt’!

    • Thanks Diana! I love the pics on For the Love of Hummers… Marvelous creatures. Hope you enjoy the book(s).

  4. Just love hummingbirds, thank you for this post 🙂

    • Thanks Harriet! Glad you enjoyed the post. I, too, love hummers and always enjoy the first spotting of a migrant in spring. 🙂


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