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The Hummingbirds Are Coming… Early!

Last night at our local wetlands, I ran into a friend who mentioned seeing a ruby-throated hummingbird in his yard — a bit early! And this morning, Michelle from Rambling Woods posted on the topic. Since they’ve hit the Gulf Coast states a wee bit ahead of their migratory schedule, let’s help them REFUEL on their non-stop 500-mile journey!

I’ll be getting the feeder ready for these lovely guys ASAP — habitat loss and destruction are the hummingbird’s main threats today, but changing temperatures are also affecting their migratory patterns, making it harder for them to find food.

Learn more at Annenberg’s “Journey North” website — track the hummingbirds, learn how to help, and take a peek at the updated migration maps!

Sparkling violet ear hummingbird, Butterfly World, FL

Sparkling violet ear hummingbird: Not in my yard, but at Butterfly World, the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the US. A most amazing, beautiful, and fairy-like place!

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 estimated at 12 years
  • 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!

 

71 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love bummers. You are a wealth of animal info. Thanks.

    March 4, 2013
    • Hee, bummers! (Or maybe hummers?) Thanks so much — I just wish I could enjoy these lovelies’ company more often!

      March 4, 2013
      • Wow…that’s a funny typo.

        March 4, 2013
      • Hee, at first I thought it was a regional expression, but then I realized “b” and “h” are close together on the keyboard. 🙂

        March 5, 2013
  2. Fun facts, FeyGirl. We have a feeder just outside our dining room. Much better entertainment than TV.

    March 4, 2013
    • Ah, yay!! You’re helping these guys!!! I wish we had more of them, but we don’t. I’m still getting a feeder set up, since they’ve been spotted on this early migration! They need all the help we can offer…..

      March 4, 2013
  3. narhvalur #

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

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so much for sharing these little lovelies!! Everyone who can help them on their journey, please….!

      March 4, 2013
  4. It’s always such a delight to see a hummingbird. We have a new resident species in the Pacific Northwest – the Anna’s, which used to be a more southern species. I’ve read it might be due to climate change, but I don’t think anyone is sure yet. Our traditional resident is the rufous hummer, a real beauty. In the forest, I always hear them before I see them…that little motor sound of their wings. As always…your photos are amazing! Thanks!

    March 4, 2013
    • Ah, interesting!! It will be neat to see what the experts come up with, why this new species is so far north… But it sure seems as though it may have to do with climate change.

      Sadly, I don’t see them much here — SUCH a rarity, which is why I’m going to ensure that a feeder is out for their migration, since someone DID see one in their yard already! Poor guys. They have so much to contend with….

      March 4, 2013
  5. Great photo to go with your fun facts. Keep your camera humming when they show up!

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I wish I got to see them more down here, then opportunities allow — it just doesn’t happen! But the feeder will be out, just in case, for this earlier-than-normal migration…. 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  6. Beautiful Captures – lover of hummingbirds:) Happy Monday

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so much! Now if only I could capture one in the wild…. 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  7. Pam #

    Love the hummingbirds! Always saw them in California, and hoping to finally see one here in Florida.

    March 4, 2013
    • I know!! My family in Marin ALWAYS has them, but here, alas…. 😦 But like I said, they’ve already been spotted down in our area, on this early migration. So I’m getting a feeder ready, just in case!! These guys need ALL the help they can get.

      March 4, 2013
  8. How lovely. Beauty is as beauty does

    March 4, 2013
    • So very true!!!

      Thanks so much… They really are amazing, beautiful little creatures. 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  9. We always look forward to a few flying jewels in the yard! Nice post with cool facts!

    March 4, 2013
    • I wish I saw them more down here — but I have faith, now, since a friend saw one with this early migration! Getting a feeder ready to do my bit to help them…. They need ALL the help + fuel they can get!

      Thanks so much. 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  10. Beautiful shot. We have so many here, and it’s a challenge to shoot them while flying!!!

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so much! Ah, I knew you would be surrounded by them!!

      They are AMAZINGLY difficult to shoot… But they’re just the most fascinating little things. We’re in the path of a straight 500-mile-long journey of theirs. WOW. And they need our help and food…

      March 4, 2013
  11. With a new hummer feeder season starting up, it’s a good time to remind everyone that red dye is not only unnecessary, but some red dyes are also harmful to the birds. If you don’t know with certainty that the red dye you are using is safe, just keep it out of the mix!

    March 4, 2013
    • I had no idea about that…. Thanks SO much for sharing! Since I don’t really see them down here, I don’t get to feed them as much as people around the country…should be! 🙂

      THANK YOU! Valuable info. WHY ADD dangerous dye to the very birds you’re trying to help? Sheesh!!

      March 4, 2013
      • It’s an old habit. People believe that the red attracts the hummers, it can, but is not essential. Hummers are quite inquisitive and will find a food source without the color. Some pre-mixes are ok in the red, but still the dye is superfluous. When in doubt, leave it out.

        We have Anna’s Hummingbirds in the NW year-round now and they’ve started pairing up already. We are still waiting for our migrant species though; I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them now!

        March 4, 2013
      • I really appreciate the info…. Since I don’t usually see them, I don’t have a feeder. But I’ll be setting one up in the next day or two, for these early migrating hummers!

        March 5, 2013
  12. gregjoder #

    Fun post! I love the hummingbirds… Here in southern AZ I’ve had feeders up all winter. Only in the last week has the activity decreased. Maybe they’re also beginning to head north. Beautiful hummingbird you captured in your photo!

    March 4, 2013
    • Ah, you’re so incredibly lucky!! I don’t really get to see them down here…. If one appears, it’s a real treat! I have to go to our sanctuary for special viewing. 🙂

      Thanks so much — even though I don’t get to see them often, we ARE in the path of their migration, so hopefully my feeder will help ’em out. 500 miles of straight flying. Just amazing for these diminutive guys!

      March 4, 2013
  13. Amazing hummer and excellent info!

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I’m lucky to be somewhat near the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the US — even IF I can’t get to see them as often as others in the rest of the country. 🙂

      March 4, 2013
  14. Oh I hope people will put out feeders and help them travel up my way…Michelle

    March 4, 2013
    • Ditto!! They need ALL the help we can offer, since their food supply has been seriously diminished (at our hands). I’m getting mine set up! I hope I get to see one…. 🙂

      March 5, 2013
  15. So exciting the hummingbirds are heading our way! One of my friends have had two hummingbirds all winter and set up a weather protected area for their feeder, including swapping out feeders before they freeze. Nice guy huh?

    March 4, 2013
    • Omigosh, that’s SO WONDERFUL! Yayayayay!!! What a sweetheart. Warms the heart to think of such people…. I’m getting my feeder today, since the first guys have been spotted here (although I’ve never had the luck to see one!).

      March 5, 2013
  16. Great shots! I have been wanting to contact you about your Anoles of the Rainbow blog. I am a photographer and serious reptile keeper. I would love to photograph some of these color morphs. Please E-mail me @: morelia236@gmail.com, I would love to ask you a few questions about the Anoles.

    March 4, 2013
    • Thanks so very much!

      Isn’t he wonderful? Unfortunately, I don’t really have access to him…. I discovered him purely by luck / chance along the Owahee Trail in Grassy Waters Preserve, in northern Palm Beach County, on a long hike. I wish I could help, though! I’ll email you this info, in case you don’t get it. 🙂

      March 5, 2013
  17. I love hummers! Excellent post!

    March 5, 2013
    • Thanks so very much! They’re such amazing little creatures….

      March 5, 2013
  18. That’s an amazing picture! And I love the facts. I will make an effort to regularly refill my feeders now.

    March 5, 2013
    • Thanks so much!

      And… YAY for you! More help to these wonderful critters — they really do rely on what we can provide, since their food sources have been seriously cut at our hands.

      March 5, 2013
  19. I have been hearing off and on all winter about a rufous hummingbird that decided to winter in Ohio of all places. Fortunately this off-course, little bird ended up at a Bird Observatory where the staff have been putting out nectar for it all winter long. http://mostlybirdsbutnotalways.blogspot.com/2013/01/ohio-hummingbird.html

    March 5, 2013
    • What a SWEETHEART!!

      Do you know, a photog friend of mine and fellow blogger commented on this post with a similar story! She lives in MD… She describes a pair of hummers who stayed through the winter, and a kindly neighbor ensured a full, unfrozen feeder full of nectar (swapping out feeders) for them! Isn’t that just wonderful??

      March 5, 2013
  20. Wow wow wow – this is an amazing shot! So beautiful.

    March 5, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I just wish it could have been in the wild and not a sanctuary, heh!! 🙂

      March 6, 2013
  21. When I lived in Colorado and fished in the mountains I have a special memory of taking a nap in my red baseball cap and waking up to a furious buzzing around my head….a hummingbird mistaking my hat for a feeder LOL. sharing this with a friend of mine who loves to photograph hummers.

    March 6, 2013
    • Oh WOW! That is sooo cool!! I wish we had more here, but it seems to be mainly during the migratory season. 🙂

      March 6, 2013
  22. “Lemmon Maganna” is going for the gold. We plan to set a New World
    record with the longest lived hummingbird ever. LM is now (9) nine
    and in excellent spirit. The only Magnificent x Anna’s hybrid ever,
    the only hummy on this “third rock from the sun” with full YELLOW
    gorget/crown possible. Does migtate and returns to my feeder right
    on schedule.

    March 6, 2013
    • WOW…. I just looked her up, and she’s gorgeous!! So wonderful that you’re caring for her, too. 🙂

      p.s. I just visited your site, and I must say — I would love, love, LOVE to live in your cottage! Talk about a dream-come-true.

      March 6, 2013
  23. I have never seen one, I hope to one day! x

    March 6, 2013
    • I’ve only seen a few in my entire life… They’re so amazing!! I hope you get to see one. 🙂

      March 6, 2013
  24. I really just had to stop and stare at that magnificent hummingbird you had so beautifully photographed here!! I believe it is my first time seeing the hummingbird from this angle. What a great shot! And thank you so much for the fascinating facts you took the time to list out here. I’m bringing my little boy over here again when he’s back from school and we’re going to learn more about hummingbirds today! Thank you ever so much FeyGirl for the awareness and conservation work you’re doing. Hugs, Sharon

    March 7, 2013
    • Thanks so very much for your kind words…. It was a REALLY lucky shot — I felt like a bit of a stalker, trying to avoid the tree branches. 🙂 I just wish we had them more down in our neck of the woods — but at least the northerners will soon be enjoying their lovely presence. I definitely learned a bit about these amazing creatures too, in my research…. Truly phenomenal, when you think about it. I hope your son enjoys!!

      It’s so good to see you back; I haven’t seen your posts for a bit!

      March 8, 2013
  25. marialla #

    Wow, first of all because you captured such a great picture and second – oh , what interesting information on the humming bird!!! Thank you very much!!!

    March 7, 2013
    • Thanks so very much!!

      It was a lucky shot, truly…. I didn’t even see him at first, he was so well hidden in the tree branches! He’s just amazing. THEY’RE such amazing creatures….

      March 8, 2013
  26. your photo is stunning, and the facts are great. thank you for a great read!

    March 7, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I’m really happy it was helpful and fun. It was great to learn a bit more about these AMAZING creatures…

      March 8, 2013
  27. hannekekoop #

    What a beauty. Thanks for sharing.

    March 7, 2013
    • Thanks Hanneke!! Aren’t they the most amazing little creatures!?

      March 8, 2013
  28. And if you have lots of patience and really want to get up-close and personal to these beauties, there’s always this! .

    March 7, 2013
    • Oh…my….@!*GOSH!!! People are FANTASTIC.

      March 8, 2013
  29. This blog earned a Bean’s Pat as the Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day. Check it out at: http://patbean.wordpress.com

    March 8, 2013
    • Thanks so very much for sharing and honoring the tiny but amazing hummers!! 🙂

      March 9, 2013
  30. Oh, my little jeweled birds!

    March 27, 2013
    • They really do look like little jewels, don’t they?

      March 28, 2013
      • Better than any jewel humans can create.

        March 28, 2013
      • So completely true…. And yet, we’ll sure try, won’t we?

        March 29, 2013
  31. YAY! I can’t wait!

    April 4, 2013
    • I wish I had seen them in my area… But I didn’t! I hope you get to see them – and have feeders to help them!

      April 9, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Hummingbirds Are Coming. Early! (Serenity Spell) | Spirit In Action
  2. Surinamese hummingbirds in Dutch zoo | Dear Kitty. Some blog
  3. Surinamese hummingbirds in Dutch zoo | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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