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Flying Jewels

I captured this brave beauty at Butterfly World’s Jewels of the Sky Aviary, the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States. It’s a most amazing, beautiful, and fairy-like place — a huge and lush flower-filled habitat of Hummingbirds, Honeycreepers, and Euphonias.

Fun and Fascinating Facts About Hummingbirds:

    • Hummingbirds are the second largest family of birds, with more than 325 species
    • Early Spanish explorers called hummingbirds “Flying Jewels”
    • Hummingbirds are found only in North and South America
    • It’s the smallest bird — and the smallest of all animals — with a backbone
    • Despite their diminutive size, hummingbirds are aggressive and territorial, regularly attacking jays, crows and hawks
    • Hummingbirds have the largest brain of all birds — 4.2% of its total body weight
    • Many hummingbirds die during the first year but those that do survive have an average lifespan of 3-4 years. The longest-living hummingbird was a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird that was tagged and recaptured 12 years later
    • Hummingbirds have very weak feet — they cannot walk or hop, using them mainly for perching
    • Hummingbirds have great eyesight — able to see ultraviolet light, even — but have no sense of smell
    • The structure of hummingbirds’ lovely iridescent feathers amplifies certain wavelengths of light, reflecting them directly in front of the bird
    • Most of a hummingbird’s weight is in its pectoral muscles — 25-30% reside in their muscles responsible for flight
    • The average flight speed of a hummingbird is 20-30 miles per hour, though the birds can reach up to 60 mph in a courtship dive
    • They can beat their wings between 50-200 flaps per second, depending on flight patterns and wind conditions
    • The hummingbird can rotate its wings in a circle, making it the only bird that can fly forwards, backwards, up, down, sideways, and hover mid-air
    • Their heart beats at up to 1,260 beats per minute
    • A resting hummingbird takes an average of 250 breaths per minute
    • Hummingbirds must consume approximately half of their weight in sugar daily, feeding 5-8 times per hour. Much of the sugar they consume comes from flower nectar and tree sap, but they also eat insects and pollen to get their protein
    • A hummingbird uses its long, grooved tongue to lap up nectar from flowers and feeders
    •  To conserve energy — while sleeping or during food scarcity — hummingbirds can go into a hibernation-like state (torpor), where their metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of normal sleep. If they’re already weakened, they may not wake from this torpor
    • During their spring and fall migrations, the ruby-throated hummingbird makes a non-stop 500-mile-flight across the Gulf of Mexico
    • The longest migration of any hummingbird species is that of the rufous hummingbird — they travel more than 3,000 miles from their nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to winter habitats in Mexico
    • Historically hummingbirds were killed for their feathers…. But today, habitat loss and destruction are the hummingbird’s main threats; changing temperatures are also affecting hummingbird migratory patterns, making it harder for them to find food
    • An increase in backyard gardens hummingbird feeders allows these birds to refuel during their long migratory journeys — YAY!

Sparkling violet ear hummingbird: I am so pretty, I am so pretty…

Sparkling violet ear hummingbird: Just adore me.

28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Pam #

    Beautiful colors!

    July 30, 2012
    • They’re magnificent — truly otherworldly! ♥

      July 30, 2012
  2. Wow, something about the light through the tail of the bird in the first photo really grabs me. Lovely!

    July 30, 2012
    • That was my favorite part of the image too… The light was so brilliant behind him, but seeing it shine through those tail feathers is fascinating. So amazing, the colors of these little ones!

      July 30, 2012
  3. What an amazing picture of this colorful hummer from underneath- beautiful.

    July 30, 2012
    • Thanks so much! It was so hard shooting into such bright sunlight, but what positives… Those glowing blue and green feathers on display!

      July 30, 2012
      • J. #

        Oh my goodness – those COLORS!!! I can’t believe you captured the bird at rest like that! (And you made it look so much larger than life, which I’m sure it would approve!)

        August 1, 2012
      • Heeeeh!!! I love that — he would definitely approve, look how big he looks! ♥ The colors are truly otherworldly; I was lucky to be there as he was putting on a show, albeit hidden in the branches…

        August 1, 2012
  4. pretty indeed 🙂

    July 30, 2012
    • Their colors are truly otherworldly… ♥

      July 30, 2012
  5. Val #

    Your photos are lovely, the top one is fabulous – I love the shape of the tail and the iridescent colours, particularly.

    The facts are interesting however I’m always bothered about how the info is obtained. Usually by doing something dastardly to the bird so that our human curiousity can be sated. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem right. I’d rather live my life not knowing so much and let birds live their lives naturally.

    July 30, 2012
    • Thanks so much — the sunlight was so intense, tough for a shot… But it shone through his beautiful feathers perfectly!

      VERY good point. As with all the Natural Kingdom, how they managed this information is dubious and troublesome. I’m with you 1000% on the leave-them-to-their-Natural-Order….

      July 31, 2012
  6. Beautiful – love the jewel colors:) Have a Great Week!

    July 30, 2012
    • It’s amazing what Nature produces, yes? Have a wonderful week!!! 🙂

      July 31, 2012
  7. Sometime since I came here. You *never disappoint! What a gorgeous picture! Brought many smiles to a dull day :))) Your description of the aviary as a fairy-like place, reminded me of a book on the senses by Diane Ackerman; in which she talks similarly of Monarch butterflies and their migration to the Trans mexican reserve. A natural history of the senses, is the name of the book.
    Many thanks for sharing!
    Psst: tks also for the likes 🙂

    July 31, 2012
    • Thanks so much for your sweet words! They brought a smile to my morning. 🙂

      I MUST investigate that book by Diane Ackerman — “A Natural History of the Senses”; thanks for the tip!

      July 31, 2012
  8. narhvalur #

    Reblogged this on Ann Novek–With the Sky as the Ceiling and the Heart Outdoors.

    July 31, 2012
    • Thanks so much for sharing this little beauty!

      August 1, 2012
  9. Total Joy to hear them approaching and hovering over long stem flowers. Beautiful photos (photothophies)

    July 31, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I wish we had them in our area — they’re a rare sight, unfortunately.

      July 31, 2012
  10. Stunning shots! Birding here in India is amazing, but sadly we don’t have hummingbirds! I think the closest we have in South India are sunbirds: http://raxacollective.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/bird-of-the-day-long-billed-sunbird-periyar-tiger-reserve-thekkady-india/

    July 31, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was lucky to snag him in all his glory… 🙂 We actually don’t have many (any?) where I live, either — this was shot at an aviary (the largest of its kind in the States, so I’m happy to live nearby!).

      But you’re right… They ARE quite similar! What a lovely bird!

      July 31, 2012
  11. How do you do this? this is absolutely amazing and gallery worthy! I’m jealous !!!

    July 31, 2012
    • Aw, you’re exceptionally kind!! I was thrilled to have caught this beautiful little guy… But I’m shocked it even came out! I was on my tiptoes, the bird was deep in the trees, mixed up in the branches, the sun was blinding — so I’m just happy he’s even visible, heh!!

      August 1, 2012
      • And the lighting is just perfect, highlighting his tail. Serendipity then.

        August 1, 2012
      • Exactly. 🙂 Thanks so much, again! You’re very kind.

        August 1, 2012
  12. Striking photos! What beautiful birds!

    July 31, 2012
    • Thanks so much! Their colors are truly otherworldly. I was really lucky — I was on my tiptoes, the bird was deep in the trees… I’m shocked the image even came out, heh!

      August 1, 2012

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