Because they are hyperactive, hummingbirds are rarely seen not moving. However, the very short-legged birds can indeed sit and shuffle. Given their weak legs, they cannot walk or hop as other birds do. However, they can shuffle along or sit on a twig or nest.
Taking Care of Their Young
A hummingbird is also the only bird that mates but separates. Therefore, females raise their young as single parents. While female hummingbirds sit, as do their male counterparts, they do not spend much time sitting on their eggs. Typically, two baby birds are hatched at a time.
Because a female hummingbird spends little time sitting, she builds her nest from the webs of spiders, thereby keeping the eggs insulated and safe. After the chicks hatch, the nest expands as the babies grow.
Hummingbirds come from the family Trochilidae and are among the smallest birds on the earth. In fact, hummingbirds often don’t measure any more than three to five inches in length and weigh no more than a few grams. Their long, slender, needlelike bills help support feeding. The birds use their long tongues to extract nectar from plants.
A Feeding Frenzy
Besides consuming nectar, preferably from red blossoms, the birds also enjoy feasting on spiders, aphids, pollen, and sap. Amazingly, the birds can consume many small meals during the day, sometimes eating small invertebrates or up to 12 times their own weight in nectar.
A large number of plant species depend on hummingbirds for pollination and continued survival and therefore supply small insects and nectar in trade. In turn, hummingbirds aggressively defend the areas where they feed, even when they are not feeding. This is understandable as the bird’s fast metabolism makes feeding a priority.
An Acrobatic Avian Performer
Unlike other birds, a hummingbird notably flaps its wings 55 times in one second, thereby producing the humming sound for which it is noted. They are the only birds known to fly backwards, fly upside down, or hover over or beside plants. The ability to hover allows the birds to sip nectar from flowers and plants.
When it comes to resting, hummingbirds go into a deep sleep known as torpor. During torpor, the bird’s heart rate and respiration slow, dropping the metabolic rate to as much as one-fifth the normal rate.
This type of deep sleep is different from dormancy as the bird can respond quickly if it senses a threat. Because the bird needs to constantly feed to support its high metabolism rate, it would die of starvation if it did not go into torpor but merely slept.
A hummingbird does communicate with various chatters, chirps, squeals, and calls. Each hummingbird species speaks in its own language to warn other hummers about any invasion of their feeding territories.
Hummingbirds must deal from early on with a number of threats including weather extremes, and dogs, cats, squirrels, and snakes. Larger birds can be a threat as well. Glass windows and similar man-made construction can shorten the lives of hummers too.
The birds migrate in both the spring and fall. Migration always proves to be a challenge for the hummingbird, who must fly a long distance to find a warm place and a plentiful supply of food. Some of their obstacles include hurricanes, strong headwinds and approaching cold fronts, all which make it difficult to fly.
The Hummingbird Lifespan
While the average life expectancy is three years for species such as the ruby-throated hummingbird, most hummingbird deaths happen in the first year of life. Birds that can stand up to environmental challenges may last as long as eight years.
A lot of false information and myths have been conveyed about hummingbirds. For instance, some of the data suggests that the birds cannot sit still or that they eat constantly. However, these are false beliefs.
Resting Between Feedings
After all, a hummingbird could not lay an egg if it could not sit. While a hummer’s metabolism is indeed fast, the bird does take breaks during the day and rests and sits on twigs. Actually, the birds spend about 80% of their time resting between feedings.
Therefore, they do make time to rest, sun themselves, and preen. They may also use this time to communicate. If you hear the sound of a small squeaky wheel, you may be hearing the birdsong of a hummer.
Where to See the Most Hummers
If you are hummer watching in the US, you will have the most success in Texas, which boasts 20 species of hummingbirds. Other states that have a large number of resident hummers include Arizona with 18 species; New Mexico, which has recorded 17 species; and California, which has 14 species.
Louisiana and Colorado also have large populations, reporting 13 species and 12 species respectively. The place on earth with the most native species is Colombia, which has a whopping 160 species living in the rainforest.
The Hummer Heart Rate
The average adult hummer weighs in at three grams and the smallest species is the bee hummingbird. The bird’s heart pumps at 680 to 1000 beats per minute. Only the chickadee comes in at a distant second at 480 beats per minute.
Is it a Bug or a Bird?
Evidently, a hummer is not your average bird. In fact, it often is mistaken for the insect known as the hawk moth. Hawk moths come from the family Sphingidae and are slightly smaller than the hummingbird.
Similar to the hummer, the insects hover and fly backwards and forwards. They also sip nectar from flowers. However, you can tell the difference between the two as the hawk moth sports antennae, which is an easy giveaway that what you are seeing is not a bird but a bug.
A Hummingbird Garden
Some hummingbird enthusiasts create hummingbird gardens so they can attract the bird to their yards. When planning the garden, you need to add hummingbird-friendly plants that bloom at different times of the year. That way, you will keep your hummingbirds coming back and returning to your yard. You also need to plan which plants offer the most appeal to hummers.
As noted, hummingbirds love red tubular flowers. They also like tubular flowers in orange, purple, and pink. Therefore, you want to keep these colors in mind if you plan a hummingbird garden. Hummers find white or yellow blooms less appealing.
A Place to Perch and Drink
You also want to add a place for the bird to rest, sun itself, or preen. You can do this easily by adding a trellis or arbor next to the garden. Make sure that you clear a space of about 10 feet for the perching area. The perch should stand about six feet tall. Make sure that it is stable. You will also want to add a place so the bird can drink water. Mix four parts water with one part sugar, making sure to fully dissolve the sugar. Place the mixture in a hummingbird feeder.
While a red non-tubular bloom such as a geranium or rose may attract a hummingbird’s notice, it does not offer enough nectar to satisfy the hummer’s appetite. Therefore, the hummingbird may stop for a brief moment at the bloom before flying elsewhere. Also, flowers that are sweetly scented usually do not provide enough nectar for hummingbirds.
Balancing Out the Hummingbird’s Menu Plan
Because the hummingbird has a fast metabolism, it needs to eat about every 15 minutes. Therefore, the bird may visit as many as 2000 flowers each day. As a result, it is important, again, to make that sure you plant flowers that bloom throughout the year. A variety of plants always in bloom will attract hummers in every season. You can also balance out the menu with flowering shrubs, vines, and trees.
Create a Vertical Garden
Gardeners also take advantage of vertical gardening when attracting hummingbirds. Creating a hanging basket with a hummer’s favorite flowers will ensure that you can see hummers close up on your porch or patio.
A Poor Sense of Smell
Hummingbirds have a poor sense of smell. That is why they are not attracted to a flower with a sweet scent. However, the bird’s vision is much better than a human’s as it can see the whole ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. Therefore, you cannot go wrong with flowers with a tubular design in orange, purple, or red.
A great example of a hummingbird flower is the daylily. The flower, which is a backyard favorite in zones 3 to 10, grows to an average height of three feet tall. It spans from one foot to three feet wide. You can grow the bloom in full sun or partial shade. It also comes in a variety of vibrant hues.
Another hummingbird favorite is the cardinal flower. This bloom, scarlet in color, can grow as tall as four feet and span out two feet in width. Grow the flower in partial shade or full sun.
This trumpet bloom likes a growing area that is sunny or lightly shaded. Make sure that you grow the plant in well-drained soil, although the flower can tolerate drought-like conditions when established. The blooms offer a veritable feast for the hummingbird’s voracious appetite.
Learning More About the Hummer
The hummingbird is certainly an interesting bird to watch. Knowing some facts about the bird will help you separate fact from fiction. If you want to learn more about the hummer, the best way to do so is to create a hummingbird garden and view the bird up close yourself.