Hummingbirds 101

What are Hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are tiny birds weighing 2 to 20 grams (.06-.60 ounces). They feed on nectar and insects, as well as tiny spiders. They have long and slender beaks and extensible tongues. They always have 10 primary feathers, 6 or 7 secondaries, nearly always 10 rectrices (tail feathers), and an extremely large sternum. Their feet are tiny and not well suited for walking but well designed for perching.

Adult males often display iridescent plumage, rarely females (sexual dimorphism).

Their wings are relatively long and pointed, usually having short arms and forearms but long hands. They fly with a unique method of rotating the entire wing, with little or no flexing of the wrist or hand joints.

As a result of their unique but inefficient means of flight, they must consume enormous amounts of food each day, with nectar often amounting to 100-200% of their body weight. Insects provide protein for their diet.

The exact number of species is perhaps 338, although not all scientists agree. This makes them the second largest family of birds after flycatchers. They are found only in the New World, from Alaska in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south. Most species are found in the tropics.

 

Important Hummingbird Facts to Know:

  • Of the 338 known species, 16 breed in the U.S.
  • Hummers are found only in the Americas.
  • Hummingbirds migrate in the fall or spring at a time determined by genetic programming.
  • It is illegal to possess a hummingbird, feather, nest or any part of it without a permit.
  • Do not care for an injured or baby hummingbird without the assistance of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

link to view The Hummingbird Connection, member magazine of the Hummingbird Society











Photo: Wally Nussbaumer

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