The Fast-Beating Heart of the Hummingbird, and Other Facts You Didn’t Know!
Hummingbirds have often been viewed as a sign of good luck, love, and joy by Native Americans. Rightfully so, considering that these gentle pollinators are a crucial part of our ecosystem! Travelling up to 500 miles at a time by themselves, hummingbirds reside mostly in the Western Hemisphere. So if you’re living in any part of the United States or Chile, you just might get to see these adorable balls of color somewhere in your yard.
They Can Fly Backward
As the only known birds with the ability to fly backward, the hummingbird can also flit from side to side and hover with ease. Instead of flapping their wings up and down, these tiny birds rotate their wings in a circular motion that works similarly to a helicopter. However, they don’t turn in just one direction, they move in a figure-eight.
Most hummingbird species only weigh 11 to 20 ounces, but there are some that can weigh up to 40 ounces, such as the Violet Sabrewing. At a resting rate, the hummingbird has a rather high heart rate that sits around 250 beats per minute, and a temperature of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Without the ability to adjust their blood pressure to such extreme levels, they wouldn’t be able to hover or gyrate their wings as quickly.
Hummingbirds are Adapted to the Cold
While hummingbirds are a migratory species, they’ve evolved in a way that allows them to survive in the cold just as well as they do in the warmer season. Using a technique similar to hibernation, the hummingbird uses “torpor” to preserve their energy during long periods of cool weather.
During this shift in energy consumption, the heart rate drops to about 50 beats per minute. The hummingbird goes into a sort of daze, falling so far out of consciousness that there are occasions when they end up hanging upside down. Should you notice one in your yard, do your best to leave it be; once the bird comes out of the state of torpor he or she will be very hungry.
If possible, grab some of their favorite flowers from your local Home Depot and place it nearby. Sadly, some birds aren’t always able to bring themselves out of this stupor and die as a result. Don’t feel too bad if this happens, it's just part of the circle of life and there will be instances in which you are unable to assist the hummingbird.
They Can’t Walk
Seeing as how they’re such lightweight animals, hummingbirds don’t have much when it comes to their extra limbs. Their legs and feet and strictly for grabbing and moving side to side along branches. They’re unable to hop or walk on the ground, and this is probably a good thing.
As a smaller species, the hummingbird wouldn’t stand a chance against land-dwelling predators like cats.
Hummingbird Nests and Eggs
Since the bird itself is so tiny, it only makes sense that their babies would also be extremely small! The hummingbird egg is only a bit larger than a pencil eraser, while also being softer and more fragile than your typical chicken egg. To accommodate the special needs of their offspring, these birds don’t use hard sticks or branches to build their nests.
Instead, they use soft plant material, spiderweb silk, and other flexible materials that continue to grow and spread as their chicks do. At most, a mature female hummingbird will lay up to two eggs per mating season.
They’re Attracted to Bright Colors
Hummingbirds don’t have a sense of smell, but they can see bright colors such as pink, red, and violet. Their beaks are built differently than your typical pigeon or finch, so they don’t have the ability to sing either. Nature has made up for these shortcomings by providing the hummingbird with excellent vision.
With a sharp pair of eyes, these smart little creatures depend on their keen sense of sight to seek out nectar and find an appropriate partner for mating. If you’d like to make your yard an attractive and inviting place for these birds, plant flowers like Foxglove, Sage, Honeysuckle, and Lupine.
Some people put out red birdfeeders in hopes that it will bring hummingbirds to their home, but they haven’t much use for seed or grain; flowers are your best bet.
They Eat Through a Tube-Shaped Beak
If you’re an early bird yourself, you’ve probably seen common species of birds like pigeons and finches poking along the ground, pulling out worms as if they were noodles. Hummingbirds use their long tongues to “dip” into the nectar of a flower, but they don’t suck it out like a straw. Instead, the contents is wrapped into the grooves of the muscle and pulled back into the beak. Imagine a strong, muscular twizzler being dipped into a cup of syrup, the only difference is that it flattens back out when placed back into the up.
As they withdraw the nectar, the hummingbird is able to tilt its body forward to gain better access to the specific plant they’re interested in.
They Have an Incredible Sense of Memory
Since they’re pollinators with a voracious appetite, hummingbirds must be careful nbot to overfeed or repetitively consume nectar from the same plant again and again. They remember which areas they’ve been to, how the quality of the nectar was, and how much they were able to eat before moving on to the next flower.
If the hummingbird were unable to track their own movements, they’d likely starve from the energy they expend just from being alive! When you combine this with their exceptional eyesight, you’ll find that these tiny creatures are very intelligent. Do what you can to be friendly and create a safe environment for any hummingbirds that might frequent your home. Keep a bell on your cat in they roam your yard freely and avoid using harmful pesticides on your plants.
Just like the bees, we need hummingbirds to continue pollinating in order for life on Earth to survive!