As we are entering full swing into spring, and temperatures are warming, many are waiting expectantly for the return of the hummingbirds. Here in the Northeast, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird will be the star of the show. Where you live determines when you’ll see them (see below). Enjoy these facts about these wonderful, tiny creatures.
10 Fascinating Hummingbird Facts
- Hummingbirds are tiny—and weigh between 2 to 20 grams (2 grams = 0.00440925 lbs).
- They feed on nectar, as well as insects and tiny spiders for protein.
- While they are known for their ability to hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings, they are also the only known group of birds able to fly backward.
- Hummingbirds have very tiny feet that are not well suited for walking but well designed for perching.
- Hummingbirds rotate their entire wing, with little or no flexing of the wrist or hand joints. And, because of this unique but inefficient means of flight, they must eat a lot of food each day, with nectar often amounting to 100-200% of their body weight.
- While some scientists don’t agree, the exact number of species is perhaps 329, making them the second largest family of birds after flycatchers.
- When still, the hummingbird’s heart beats 500 times a minute and doubles when excited.
- In order to hover, the hummingbird has to beat its wings 60 times per second. When perched, the hummingbird does not push off with its feet like other birds but will begin by beating its wings.
- A hummingbird has to visit at least 1,500 flowers a day in search of nectar because of their great expenditure of energy to stay warm and maintain their heart rate. A flower’s nectar is high in sucrose, which is a sugar that is easily digested. It is also a form of quick energy.
- Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but they have keen hearing and sight to find those brightly colored flowers!
Special feeding bottles can be purchased or a simple red dish or red-wrapped bottle can be used. Fill these with sugar water. To make sugar water, combine one part granulated sugar with four parts water and heat until sugar dissolves. Store in the refrigerator. Never use honey, as it will ferment, creating a fungus on the hummingbird’s tongue. Artificial sweeteners have no food value and, therefore, will not provide the birds with any energy. This will lead to slow starvation. Do not add red food coloring to the sugar water!
To attract hummingbirds to your garden:
Make sure that you choose flowers that can produce nectar, grow well in your area and are brightly colored. Many flowers known to attract hummingbirds have blossoms that are red to orange in color. Some flower suggestions include:
When will you see them?
The Audubon Society shares when you can expect to see them in your region.
Watch hummingbirds in slow motion!