Did you know there are over 320 species of hummingbirds?
These tiny birds are considered a great prize among many birders, both for their beauty and because of how difficult they can be to photograph! Identifying a hummingbird to the unpracticed eye can also be tricky. Knowing where the bird was seen will give more context in helping to identify these birds. The most well-known species found in the USA is the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).
Where are hummingbirds found?
On Chirp Birding we have had 21,000+ sightings across 23 different countries. Whilst we can all admire the beauty of hummingbirds in our digital feeds, they are only found in the Americas and most hummingbirds live in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Despite being very small birds, hummingbirds are considered long-distance migrants and travel individually rather than in flocks. Each year in Spring they migrate north, Rufous Hummingbirds, in particular, are known for their amazing flying skills and travel 4,000 miles from Mexico to Alaska!
How do hummingbirds sleep?
During the day, hummingbirds spend much of their time feeding. Their metabolisms are lightning-fast – the fastest of any animal – so at dusk, about half an hour before sunset, hummingbirds will find a safe place to latch onto a branch. At this point, some hummingbirds birds will lower their metabolisms and drop their body temperatures during winter or at night. This means they can achieve a hibernation-like state called Torpor. They do this so that they do not starve to death while sleeping.
What do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar, providing critical pollination for local flora. This nectar is high in energy and is a great treat. However, they also feed on small insects which provide a good source of protein. Hummingbirds need to eat very frequently and must feed roughly every 10 to 15 minutes consuming almost half their body weight every day.
How do hummingbirds fly?
Their unique wings mean they are the only bird that can fly backward! Their wings can move 180 degrees at the shoulder joint and they move their wings in a figure of eight shape, meaning they only need to make small adjustments to move in any direction, including backward. Their fast flapping wings create a buzzing sound or hum, which gives the hummingbird its name. They can also fly as fast as a car, moving at between 30 and 45 mph.
How big are hummingbirds?
They are pretty small with most species measuring between 3-5 inches, in fact, the world’s smallest bird is the Bee Hummingbird, measuring just over 2 inches long and less than 2 grams in weight. At the other end of the scale is the Giant Hummingbird which measures around 9 inches long and weighs ten times more than the Bee Hummingbird. Their eggs are pretty tiny too, most are the size of a single jelly bean. Some are stranger looking than others too, for instance, the Sword-billed Hummingbird with its unusually long bill; it is the only bird to have a beak longer than the rest of its body.