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Hummingbirds

Celebration of natures jewel.

By Rahab KimondoPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
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Hummingbirds
Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

Hummingbirds are marvels of the sky, famed for their unique and impressive flying abilities. They may be the world’s smallest birds, but there is no risk of them flying under the radar thanks to their eye-catchingly colorful plumage. The hummingbird family is 368 species strong, in a range of shapes, sizes, and dazzling colors. They are native to the Americas, with the highest diversity around the Tropics.

Small but speedy. Tiny but aggressive. Little bodies, big appetites. Hummingbirds are a study in extremes. They are the lightest North American birds. Most weigh less than two pennies at 3 to 4 grams. They have the fastest wings and heartbeats, the most efficient metabolisms, and the most minuscule eggs. The list could go on. Watching these tiny marvels at a feeder, it’s hard not to wonder how hummingbirds zip around so quickly or keep their feathers so brilliant. Hummingbirds are tough survivalists. Many of the actions that help them persevere also make them fun to watch.

The greatest risk to their survival is habitat loss. Many species breed in old, tropical forests which are facing deforestation. Hummingbirds time their migration based on when flowers are due to bloom – however, climate change is causing many plants to bloom earlier than usual, reducing food availability. Other threats include pesticide poisoning and collision with windows.

Hummingbirds get their name from the humming sound their wings make when in flight or hovering – the noise is often compared to the sound of a bee or mosquito. A hummingbird can flap its wings up to 80 times a second, or as many as 200 times in a dive. Hummingbirds have unique, impressive flight abilities, such as being able to fly backwards and upside down.

These small birds have big appetites due to a fast metabolism, and can consume up to 12 times their bodyweight in nectar every day. They are often highly territorial and fiercely guard their own patch of flowers. They face the risk of starvation during sleep or when food is scarce, so enter a hibernation-like state called torpor at night to conserve energy. This decreases their body temperature, and heart and breathing rates.

You typically see hummingbirds at nectar blooms and sugar-water feeders, but they also eat tree sap and small insects when flowers are hard to find in the wild. Nectar is the high-octane nourishment that fuels hummingbirds, but they also need body-building protein. They spend considerable time hunting and eating the small insects, spiders and other arthropods that provide the vital compound.

Thanks to the fliers’ amazing agility and the special adaptation that essentially makes their bills spring-loaded sets of chopsticks, hummingbirds snatch insects out of the air. Hovering, they also glean earthbound prey from spiderwebs, vegetation and other places. Sweet oozing tree sap has a high sugar content, not unlike nectar, so it’s also ideal for hummers—but they can’t access it without a little help. Sapsuckers drill holes into trees for their food, creating rows of sap wells. Some hummingbird species readily feast on the sap from these wells.

If you think the same hummingbirds come back to your feeders and flowers every year, you might be right! They are likely to return to the area where they hatched.

The Bee Hummingbird, found only in Cuba, is the world’s smallest bird. Weighing just 1.6 grams, they are easily mistaken for bees. Their dainty eggs are around 6mm long (around the size of a coffee bean!) and are laid into tiny, cup-shaped nests made of cobwebs and moss. The cobwebs allow the nest to stretch as the chicks hatch and grow. The species is classified as Near Threatened, with its main threat being habitat loss due to conversion for cattle pasture and agriculture

Nature
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About the Creator

Rahab Kimondo

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Comments (3)

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  • Beth2 months ago

    💯

  • Ryn Hussain2 months ago

    Nice one❤️

  • Test2 months ago

    You really know how to capture a reader's attention. Well done!

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