The Suitcase Lady

Hummers

July 28, 2020, 7:16 am

Without a doubt, hummingbirds are tiny natural wonders. My home state of Wisconsin hosts one species, the ruby-throated hummingbird, and it is always thrilling to glimpse one darting about.

All hummers have an impressive array of features and feats. Here is a short list:

  • Hummingbirds flap their wings an average of 50 times per second, but some species can reach an amazing 200 times per second.
  • The heartbeat rate of hummers is 1,200 beats per minute.
  • Hummingbirds can hover, fly forward, backward and even upside down.
  • With the exception of insects, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of all animals. To keep those little wings flapping, they must eat more than half their weight in nectar every day. If people had their metabolism, we would have to consume 155,000 calories a day.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds make a 500 mile nonstop flight over the Gulf of Mexico at migration times.
  • To save precious energy overnight, hummingbirds enter a hibernation-like sleep state called torpor.

In addition to all these talents, hummingbirds have the ability to see colors we cannot see. They can perceive ultraviolet light. Researchers in Colorado recently reported that these tiny birds pick up on multiple colors in the UV spectrum and use these colors to identify food sources.

There is one thing that hummingbirds do not excel at, and that is being nice. They are highly aggressive birds. I’ve witnessed their boundary disputes in the gigantic aviary at the Sonoran Desert Museum (really a Zoo). There are numerous hummer species in the enclosure, and those little flyers have it all staked out with their invisible boundary lines. Visitors only need a short viewing time to realize they are standing in the middle of multiple war zones.

In addition to defending territory from other hummers, these birds have also been known to attack hawks and crows. Now that is a true David vs Goliath scenario.

Hummer

The world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird, which is found only in Cuba


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