Hummingbirds have hypnotized humans since our ancestors reached the Americas centuries ago.
These tiny birds are a wonder of the natural world, packing several almost otherworldly powers into their barely believable bodies.
Dr Emma Greig, project leader for the FeederWatch project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said one of the reasons hummingbirds are so exceptional is that they are the smallest birds in the world.
She said News week: “They have an extremely high metabolism and burn a lot of calories during the day, but at night they can slow down their metabolism and go into very deep sleep. This allows them to survive the many hours of the night without food.”
The hummingbird is also the only species of bird able to fly backwards, which proves to be a useful power for feasting on the nectar of plants and insects.
Wild bird food producer Woodstream Corporation says this ability is important because hummingbirds consume up to 50 percent of their body weight in nectar each day.
The company said News week: “When migrating twice a year, they dramatically increase their nectar intake because they have no idea where their next meal will come from.”
News week asked birding experts to share some of the most amazing aspects of the migratory patterns of these amazing birds.
Where do hummingbirds come from?
While there are over 360 species of hummingbirds, only one, the ruby-throated hummingbird, breeds and raises its young in the eastern United States and Canada.
Erik Johnson, director of conservation science at bird conservation organization Audubon Delta, said 16 more hummingbird species can be found in the West, adding that “many of them barely make it to the States- United in Southeast Arizona or South Texas “.
He said News week: “Most of these species migrate south to warmer climates for the winter, mainly in Mexico. Although in recent decades a variety of species has become regular in the gardens of people in the south east of the United States and some hummingbirds will try to winter even further north. “
Howard Youth, screenwriter and editor at the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), said News week: “The hardiest to stay year round in much of the United States (and southwestern Canada) is Anna’s Hummingbird.”
“A few more occur year round (a population of Allen’s Hummingbird in Southern California and Buff-bellied Hummingbird, which is found in South Texas year-round but appears to be increasingly seen in winter along the Gulf Coast; also, the Costa’s Hummingbird remains in part of its range year-round in the southwestern desert).
Why do hummingbirds migrate?
While different hummingbirds have different routes, most North American hummingbirds typically migrate to Central or South America for the winter.
Greig said the reason for this migration is “to avoid the cold and to follow their food sources, which are flowering plants and insects.”
She said News week: “Migration is difficult for birds and many likely perish, although I don’t know the specific death rates for hummingbirds and they certainly vary by location and species. Climate change can cause some hummingbirds to overwinter further north than before because winters are getting milder in some areas. “
How to help hummingbirds in winter
David Wiedenfeld, chief conservation scientist at ABC, believes that “if you have a hummer left last November, be sure to feed it.”
He said, “Keep your feeder clean and full, and keep it thawed. A heat lamp directed at the feeder will help keep it unfrozen. It should also be hung in a protected place, as far as possible away from the sun. wind and rain.
“If it freezes, thaw or replace it as soon as possible. Early in the morning is essential – make sure they have a thawed feeder as soon as it gets light. Late afternoon is also critical – if it’s cold, make sure the feeder is thawed in the late afternoon so the hummer can refuel before dark.
“If you are going to be away for an extended period, make sure you have a human who can be back and keep your feeder full, clean, and unfrozen. The little bird needs to eat.
“I must add that if you don’t have a heat lamp or a power outlet to allow you to put it on your feeder, you will need to frequently thaw the feeder and have hot syrup to replace it. And of course do. that you took it out in the morning. “
The Woodstream Corporation added, “Hummingbird feeders have been shown to neither create dependencies nor impact the timing of migration. These are excellent sources of insurance food for these traveling birds.
Other facts about hummingbirds
Hummingbirds earned their unusual name due to the drone made by their wings, used to maintain perfect position control.
While the wings of a ruby-throated hummingbird flap about 70 times per second in direct flight, it can easily reach 200 times per second when diving.
Hummingbirds can also see colors invisible to the human eye– thanks to a fourth type of cone in their eyes, as opposed to our three types. According to the researchers, hummingbirds can see colors such as UV + red, UV + green, and UV + purple, in addition to hues completely unknown to the human eye.
Hummingbirds are exceptionally fast and are able to fly up to 45 miles per hour. And these amazing creatures can also maintain a rapid pace for long periods of time; migrating ruby-throated hummingbirds have been recorded flying for up to 20 hours continuously, fueled by their fat stores and a little help from the wind.