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!
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!