Hummingbirds have glittering, iridescent colours. They are native to South America and when the early Spanish explorers saw them, they called them “Joyas voladoras”, flying jewels.
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Tochilidae is the family of scientific classification given to these little birds. This is a Greek word meaning “small bird”. Very appropriate!
Attracting Hummers is also very easy and will bring hours of pleasure.
As in many other instances in nature, the male Hummer is more brightly coloured than the female. This is the case with many of their specie's.
Both sexes in the Ruby Throated species have metallic green above. But the male has a brilliant red throat and white collar encircling his neck, which the female lacks.
In other species like the Rufous, the males and females share the same stunning array of colour.
During Hummer mating courtship, the male uses his colourful parts of his body to attract the female.
He swoops back and forth in front of the female catching the light on his throat feathers causing them to flash and glow.
The colour and movement is very attractive to the female.
These little birds could be considered tiny flight machines. Their weight consists of 30% flight muscles with a covering of feathers.
They are “Smart” flying machines with “lots of heart”. Their brain is 4.2% and their heart is 2.4% of their body weight, both proportionately the largest in the bird kingdom!
Hummers can rotate each wing in a circle allowing them to fly in all directions: forward, backward, up, down, sideways or in one place.
They can also fly upside-down and often deploy this maneuver when being chased.
Their flight speed is 25 to 30 mph and they can dive at speeds of up to 60 mph.
But they have a weakness. They have very little strength in their feet. When in their nest or perched on a branch, they will use their wings to change position rather than their feet.
A Hummer’s normal life span averages from 3 to 5 years. But some sources state that some birds have lived as long as 9 to 12 years.
These little birds will drink flower nectar from a variety of flowers and may visit 1000 flowers per day!
Some people express concern that these little birds might forsake their natural food when presented with Hummer food in a feeder. But there is no evidence of this. They seem to go back and forth easily all day between nectar feeders and flowers.
They will snap up the bugs from flowers they visit; from mid-air; and from spider webs, (with the spider too!). The bugs supply the protein they need to balance their diet.
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The Pavarotti of the bird world, the Hummer will never be.
This species is considered a songbird. But not because of their beautiful singing, because that does not happen. They produce nothing close to the beautiful lilt of other birds.
But they do make interesting sounds none the less. Different types of Hummers make different sounds.
Some make mouse-like chirps, twittering squeaks, “tups” and high pitched zees, delivered adamantly in Hummer fashion!
Although they may not be known for their beautiful vocal sounds they are distinctly recognized for the humming sound produced by their wings. Thus the name!
I am including these great resources here. They are my favourites and if you live in an area that has multiple types of Hummingbirds then you may need help identifying them.
But I am sure they will come in handy for all backyard birders to help discover all the birds that visit your bird habitat.
Consider Thayer's Birding Software too. This is an excellent aid for all bird watchers. I love mine and you can read my review here.