10 Things You May Not Know About Hummingbirds
If you have ever seen a hummingbird at your bird feeder or in the forest, you were probably struck by a few things. You no doubt noticed the speed of its flight, as well as its tiny stature and perfectly formed body. You may have been struck by the vibrant colors of the bird as it moved through the air, or the way it seemed to hover in the air around your feeder.
Whether you enjoy hummingbirds for their natural beauty or their unique niche in the environment, there are probably a few things you do not know about these one-of-a-kind birds. Here are 10 things you might not know about the humble hummingbird.
They sometimes fall prey to praying mantises. While these insects are much smaller than hummingbirds, they have been known to attack and even kill the birds. A quick Google search for hummingbird and praying mantis will unveil dozens of videos showing praying mantises patiently waiting on hummingbird feeders and grabbing the birds as they land.
The varied diet is important since hummingbirds need to eat almost constantly to maintain their high metabolism and active lifestyle. Hummingbirds have an incredibly fast heartbeat and breathing rate, and high body temperature as well. In fact, no animal has a faster metabolism – roughly 100 times that of an elephant.
There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds in North and South America alone. They live exclusively in the Western Hemisphere, from Alaska to the tip of South America. The smallest hummingbird is the aptly named bee hummingbird, one of the tiniest birds on the planet.
It is not your imagination – a hummingbird can indeed hover in midair while it feeds. The hummingbird accomplishes this feat by flapping its wings incredibly rapidly. Depending on the species the hummingbird can flap its wings between 10 and 90 times per second.
You do not have to worry about providing a perch on your hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds have feet so tiny that they find it difficult to walk or stand on a perch, and they cannot walk on the ground.
Hummingbirds embark on an amazing annual migration, all the more remarkable given their tiny size. Hummingbirds start their journey in the eastern U.S., cross the Gulf of Mexico and end their migration in Central America, where they spend the winter. To provide energy for the trip, hummingbirds pack on a layer of fat equal to half of their total body weight.
The female hummingbird has the sole responsibility for hatching the eggs and raising the young. The male takes no part in the process and typically finds another mate after the clutch of eggs is laid. The largest hummingbird lays eggs that weigh around 1.4 grams – which is less than the weight of a single playing card. Unlike most songbirds, the female hummingbird will not share a male’s territory. She establishes her own little home area and mates with a nearby male.
Hummingbirds can conserve energy and resources when food is scarce. During this period of semi-hibernation, the hummingbird slows its metabolism to just 1/15 its normal rate. Hummingbirds also maintain this slow metabolism when they sleep. This really deep sleep is called Torpor (pronounces TOR-per). During this process, their body temperature will drop to the point of becoming hypothermic.
Hummingbirds may be tiny birds, but they are a big deal to bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts. These tiny creatures play a vital role in the environment, and they are always a favorite at back yard bird feeders.