Why are They so Amazing?

Hummingbirds, why do they so amaze us so?

We love these winged wonders, the flying jewels of the garden.

Sit back and relax, as you may discover or learn a few little known facts about these very special birds.

Poets write about them.

Songs are sung about these beauties.

They are called the jewel of the garden.

We covet them.

I can't think of any other bird that everyone wants in their gardens.

All rightfully so.

There are few species of birds we stop what we're doing just to watch and marvel at their flight and hope to get a glimpse of glittering colors.

I call them the ultimate helicopter.

Avian acrobats that do what only these supreme fliers can do.

No other bird can fly in any direction. Yes, even upside down for a short period of time.

They are extraordinary birds clad in glittering iridescent feathers and are found only in the Western Hemisphere.

There are roughly 340 species of Hummingbirds presently recognized and are quite diverse in size. From the diminutive 2 and 1/4 inch Bumblebee hummer of Cuba to the 8 and 1/2 inch long Giant Hummer of Andes Mountains.

20 plus species of Hummingbirds have been recorded in North America north of Mexico.

16 species breed in The United States and Canada.

The countries with the most species of hummers are Ecuador, Peru and Chile. All have bragging rights to over 100 species. Ecuador is king with 162 species of the winged jewels.

The numbers decrease as one goes north or south of the Equator.

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Why We Adore Hummingbirds:

So why do we go out of our way to attract and watch these little marvels?

We are amazed that birds can be so small.

The iridescent colors that reflect in the sunlight.

We admire their almost arrogant attitude.

Their mobility and how fast they are.

We put up special feeders and
plant flowers and special gardens just for hummingbirds.

They are fast.

The average flight speed is 27 MPH.

When they kick in the after burners and they increase speed to 45 MPH.

Records show speeds exceeding 55 MPH.

Wings beat between 50 and 80 times a second and can increase this to 200 times a second.

That's right, 200 times a second!

The wing is stiff and only moves in the shoulder area (other birds bend at the elbow and finger areas).

This specialized wing allows the hummer to propel itself no matter how the wings are moving.

Other birds generate movement on the down flap only.

To propel this jet engine, High octane fuel and specialized parts are required.

A hummingbirds heart beats on average 500 to 600 times a minute. During times of rest, heart beats slow to 250 times a minute.

During times of exertion, the heart pumps up to 1,260 times a minute.


Hummers have the largest heart per body weight than any other creature.

During times of rest, a hummer will breathe about 250 times a minute and increases as the bird exerts more energy.

A hummer heart beat can exceed 1,200 times a minute, 1,200 times.

Hummers have more oxygen carrying red blood cells per weight than any other mammal.

Because hummers run at such a high rate, they need high octane fuel and lots of it.

These tiny birds need to feed every 15 minutes or risk starvation.

Consuming up to twice its body weight in nectar daily or up to 50% in sugar from flowers and our feeders.

They also need protein which they get from insects. It takes a whopping 10 minutes for a hummer to digest an insect.

Can you imagine food going through our system in 10 minutes?

If we needed that kind of energy, an adult human would need to consume 115,000 to 155,000 calories a day. Depending on the individual size/weight of the person.

Migration north is fast. Check out the Hummer Migration Map for Rubies.

This source includes Rufous, Orioles and other Birds

Heading South, hummers double their weight. Now that's packing in the groceries!

Their tongues are also fast.

A forked course tongue that is twice the length of the bill licks up nectar about 15 times a second.

Yes, the tongue is indeed forked and it licks.

There is no sucking action as some may think.

Tiny legs and little feet, however the feet are only used for standing or perching.

When a hummer wants to move or simply turn around it flaps its wings. Rising a couple of inches, turns around and lands again.

A case of efficient fliers have little use for walking.

Everything about the hummer is designed for strength and speed.

From their over sized breastbone to the largest heart per body weight in the animal kingdom.

Hummers are fast and strong.

Check out

Hummingbirds Mating.

Hummers are the only species of bird without downy feathers.

They make up for this lack of insulation by having more feathers per square inch than any other species of bird.

No wonder we admire these jewels of the garden.

These avian jewels even have a Sphinx moth that mimics many of their flight and feeding patterns. At first glance you may think you are looking at a baby hummer. Young or fledged hummers are close to adult size, there is no mistaking the difference when you look more careful.

(Photos from Wikipedia)

Species Profiles

Hummingbird Moth

Hummer Feeders

Locating Your Feeders

Feeding Hummers

Plant a Hummer Garden

A List of Nectar Flowers

Container Gardens for Hummers

Attract Other Pollinators (Bees, Moths and More)

Hummer Brain, it will Amaze You

The Unique Hummer's s Bill

Turn Your Gardens Into a Wildlife Habitat

Have a Passion? Let "SBI" Help You

Read about Hummingbirds and more.

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