The Amazing Lives of Hummingbirds

For the last three years, I have attached miniature cameras to the backs of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in an attempt to better understand their life and behavior.  Why?  Well who doesn’t want to know what a brilliantly-colored three and a half inch long flying creature does with its time?  What’s that?  You want to see the videos?  Okay, you called my bluff.  Even though I haven’t placed cameras on hummingbirds, it sounds like a pretty neat idea.  Perhaps you’d be willing to settle for interesting details about hummingbirds and some really cool pictures?  Let’s dive into the world of hummingbirds!

(Ruby-throated Hummingbird – National Geographic)

Hummingbirds are among the smallest birds in the world and are known for their vibrant colors and amazing agility.  These miniature flying machines are named for the humming sound that emanates from their rapidly beating wings.  Hummingbird wings have been recorded beating up to 80 times per second!  That’s insane!  The craziness doesn’t stop there.  During flight, a hummingbird’s heart may beat over 1,200 times per minute!  For comparison, the human heart beats over 150 times per minute during strenuous exercises.  These little fellows are very quick and extremely active.  In case you’re wondering, hummingbirds have a speed of about 25-30 mph in flight.

Want to learn another mind-blowing fact?  Recent studies have shown that male Anna’s Hummingbirds can reach over 60 mph during courtship dives!  These hummingbirds can experience close to 10 Gs of force according to a researcher from Cal-Berkeley.  I’ve been on a roller coaster with 4 Gs of force which pressed me back against the seat and tightened the muscles in my face.  I don’t even want to imagine what 10 Gs would do to me!  Anna’s Hummingbirds live around the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and like most hummingbirds, enjoy eating nectar from flowers and plants.  They also eat small insects.  One other cool thing about the Anna’s Hummingbird is that it has a normal body temperature of close to 107 degrees Fahrenheit!  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains that when outside temperatures fall, the hummingbird goes into torpor, which is a state where breathing and heart rates slow down while the body cools.  Torpor is basically a shortened form of hibernation and allows the hummingbird to survive when food is scarce or the weather grows cold.  Years ago when I was visiting California I had the privilege of seeing some of these cool birds.

Anna

(Anna’s Hummingbird – Edgar Paul Coral)

Ready to learn about the smallest bird in the world?  Weighing between 1.6 and 2.0 grams (~ 0.05-0.07 ounces), the Bee Hummingbird grows to about 2.3 inches long and lives in Cuba.  Let’s do something fun here,  How many Bee Hummingbirds would equal the largest bird in the world?  The Ostrich can weigh up to 350 lbs, which is 158,757 grams.  This means that approximately 79,378 Bee Hummingbirds would be needed to equal the weight of a large Ostrich!  As you might imagine, these little birds have to eat a lot to keep up with their high levels of activity and an individual may sip nectar from over 1,000 flowers in a single day.  Bee Hummingbirds construct tiny nests made out of twigs, moss and spiderwebs.  Now there might be someone who’s wondering what the song of these birds sounds like.  Actually, most hummingbirds make squeaking noises and are unable to form words, which is of course why they hum a lot.

Male bee hummingbird, in breeding plumage

(Male Bee Hummingbird in breeding plumage)

Because I like serializing my blogs, part 2 of The Amazing Lives of Hummingbirds will be posted this weekend.  I will take a look at Sword-billed Hummingbirds, Giant Hummingbirds and Sicklebills.  I will also share my experiences with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and their behavior.  Be prepared for fighting and love quadrangles; which are much cooler with hummingbirds than humans.  Plenty of awesome pictures will be shown and you will learn how hummingbirds can fly backwards!  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sip some nectar to replenish my energy.  After all, I’m exhausted from this strenuous writing workout.

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5 thoughts on “The Amazing Lives of Hummingbirds

  1. Hi,
    Josh is it? I love your blog. This post on humming birds was truly sweet for all of us nature lovers. I grew up working in my mom’s pet store (She called it “Joy of Pets”.) I have always loved animals and natue. I love your upbeat take on the amazing animal kingdom!
    Please accept the Sunshine award to recognise great work that is full of life! http://advocacyautismspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/sunshine-on-a-poopy-day/
    (don’t worry it’s only a poopy day because we’re potty training 🙂 )
    Sincerely,
    Julie

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