Interesting Facts on Hummingbirds

Flight

  • The number of times a hummingbird’s wings beat is different from one species to another, and ranges from 720 to 5400 times per minute when hovering.
  • Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.
  • Some hummingbirds fly at speeds greater than 33 miles per hour.
  • A hummingbird’s wing beats take up so much energy, they spend the majority of their time resting on branches and twigs.
  • Hummingbirds got their name from the humming noise their wings make in flight.
  • Approximately 25-30% of a hummingbird’s bodyweight is flight muscle, as opposed to other birds, which average 15%.
  • Hummingbirds can fly in the rain and, like dogs, shake their heads to dispel drops of water. Unlike dogs, however, a hummingbird shakes its head violently, 132 times per second, and rotating 202 degrees—all while flying and maintaining direction!

Metabolism

  • Hummingbirds can enter a state of physical inactivity called torpor, in which the birds reduce their body temperature to conserve energy.
  • “adept at burning both glucose and fructose, which are the individual components of sugar; a unique trait other vertebrates cannot achieve.”
  • A hummingbird’s metabolism is about 100 times faster than an elephant’s!

Biology

  • A hummingbird has only a few taste buds and salivary glands in its mouth.
  • Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds in the world, and the bee hummingbird is by far the smallest at just one inch in length, weighing two grams.
  • Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.
  • Hummingbirds have more neck vertebra (14 or 15) as opposed to most mammals (7).
  • A hummingbird’s heart is relatively the largest of all animals at 2.5% of its body weight.
  • Hummingbirds’ legs and feet are small and weak, so they are used only for perching, not walking,
  • A hummingbird weighs less than a nickel, on average.
  • The iridescence of hummingbird feathers is a result of prism-like microstructures that fragment light into components of the spectrum, by a process of absorption and angle of light.
  • A hummingbird tongue is flat and split at the tip, bifurcated like a forked tongue. Each of the bifurcated flaps is edged with fringe, which makes the tip of tongue look like a feather. At rest, the flaps are rolled up in tubular shape and stuck together. When a hummingbird feeds, it picks fluid up by protracting the tongue, spreading the bifurcated tip, which opens out flat, gets covered with fluid, then brought back into the mouth.

Migration

  • When hummingbirds migrate to the United States in the springtime, they cover 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, flying for 20 hours without stopping.
  • In preparation for migration, a hummingbird will store half its body weight worth of fat.
  • Hummingbirds migrate alone and not in flocks.  Very commonly the males migrate first followed by the females.

Dangers

  • Nearly 15% of hummingbird species are vulnerable to extinction.
  • It has been reported that very small hummingbirds have been caught in spider webs, stuck on thistles, and eaten by praying mantis, frogs, and dragonflies.
  • Hummingbirds are killed when striking windows.
  • Predators, such as cats, can catch and kill hummingbirds

Food Consumption

  • On an average day, a hummingbird will consume double its body weight.
  • A hummingbird drinks nectar by protracting and contracting its tongue around 13 times per second.
  • A hummingbird drinks nectar from hundreds of flowers, and eats thousands of tiny insects each day.
  • The edges of a hummingbird’s tongue are rolled inward to assist in bringing nectar and insects into the bird’s mouth.

Breeding and Reproduction

  • Only female hummingbirds build nests.
  • Female hummingbirds lay only two eggs.
  • The male hummingbird is not involved in raising young, and will often find another mate after the young are hatched.
  • Hummingbirds tend to return to the area where they were hatched.
  • After hatching, baby hummingbirds will stay in the nest for approximately three weeks.

Natural History

  • More than 330 species of hummingbirds live in North and South America.
  • Only 5% of hummingbird species live primarily north of Mexico.
  • 95% of hummingbird species live primarily south of the United States.