Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hummingbirds, My Favorite!

Good Morning! I guess not only do I get my best work done in the early morning, but if I don't get it done early, I don't get it done! And this topic, Hummingbirds, is one I'm very passionate about, so I am bummed to be a day behind-better late than never!

The most coomon hummingbirds in our wondeful part of Colorado are the Ruby-throated and the Rufous, but there are as many as 300 types. Hummingbirds are only native to the Americas and migrate up to 2,000 miles. Ruby-throated hummers have to cross the Gulf of Mexico on a non-stop flight, that is 500 miles! They can fly 60/mph in a dive, and are the only birds that can fly backwards and even upside down. Giant hummingbirds wings beat 8-10 times per second, with small birds at an amazing 20-25 beats per second, and up to 100 beats for their spectacular courtship flight.

The metabolism of a hummingbird is about 100 times faster than an elephant's, aside from insects they have the highest metabolism of all animals. Hummingbirds will consume 5 times their body weight, about equal to a penny, in nectar each day. All the while benefitting the 1,000 flowers they visit by pollinating them, rubbing their faces and heads on the "tube" of the flower. Hummers also eat insects and spiders for protein. This magical little creature can also go into a state called torpor, which brings their metabolic rate down 1/15 when food is not readily available (like at night).

Females nest and raise the young on their own, she makes an expandable nest out of spider webbing so it will grow with her young'uns. Two white eggs take 18-19 days to hatch and the hatchlings are ready to leave in 3 weeks. Mama bird has only one brood per year and many young hummingbirds don't survive more than a year or so. The life expectancy of a hummingbird is 3-5 years, with the oldest bird on record (12 years) being banded and recaught in our great state!

Hummingbirds are very smart and will go back to a reliable source of food again and again. They even know how long it takes for a specific flower to refill before returning to it. Hummers have better sight and hearing than humans with no sense of smell, they choose their flowers by color and shape of tube. As for their own dazzling colors, they are able to show or hide them as they see fit, as these irridescent feathers do not have pigment. It really comes in handy with the ladies or as a method of camouflage.

To successfully feed these wondrous birds, mix a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, bring to a boil and cool. It is usually best to have at least a couple of feeders, preferably out of site from one another, so one aggressive male does not stake his claim and not let the others feed. These little guys are very territorial, spreading their tail feathers and neck feathers (the gorget) in a flash of color, diving and chasing off any new comers.

To solve the problem of insects getting in your feeders, try 3 parts sugar to one part water in a separate feeder that will attract the bugs and won't hurt the hummers. Homemade food is much better (as usual) for the hummingbirds as many prepared nectar products have preservatives, dyes and artifical flavors in them that in a lab setting have shown to shorten the lives of the birds.

Hummingbirds are said to have the protective spirit of an eagle, prompting my tattoo. After the shooting at our high school I got it as a way to express my extraordinarily strong protectiveness of "our" kids, and especially my own. My new best friend, as the kids called him, could simply go from my shoulder to theirs; that way we could always keep an eye on each other! I am really excited to share these pics of my favorite birds. As you can imagine they are very difficult to photograph, but I got quite a few shots one night as they buzzed back and forth to my feeders. This guy is the dominant male and always comes back to this perch to keep an eye on his feeder. Although they are not museum quality -ha, the hour kneeling in the rose bushes was worth it!

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Great pictures and a wealth of information!!