September 25, 2020 // 11 minute read

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hummingbirds birdwatching

How To Identify A Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are small, colorful jewels in the bird world. As usual, the males are more colorful than females. They have long, narrow bills, blade-like wings, and weigh 2 to 20 grams. Discover Wildlife indicates that they live three to five years. They are related to swifts.

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According to the Smithsonian, these birds are very agile due to their size and their powerful wings. This provides them with the ability to fly up to 30 mph, remain in flight for 18 to 20 hours, hover, and fly backwards or upside-down with a wing beat of 70 times per second while flying and 200 times per second when diving. Their heart rate is 225 beats per minute at rest and 1,200 beats per minute during flight. Due to their high metabolic rate and the poor insulation ability of their feathers, hummingbirds enter a deep torpor state when they sleep. This lowers their metabolism and their 105-degree body temperature.

The walnut-sized hummingbird nests are made with bits of plants and spider webs. They lay one or two eggs that are the size of peas.

hummingbird eating nectar
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Different Types Of Hummingbirds

The Smithsonian Institution reports that there are 340 species of hummingbirds. Below are some of the most common hummingbirds that birdwatchers enjoy watching and observing.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

The medium-sized ruby-throated hummingbird migrates to the eastern half of North America in the summer and southern Mexico in the winter. The bright red throat with the black chin and the black mask are the identifiers for the males. They also have a metallic green head. They are grey underneath surrounded by a green edge. As mentioned, female hummingbirds aren’t as colorful. The female ruby-throated hummingbird has a white throat and chin with green flecks. Their stomach is white, and their back is green.

Anna’s hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird lives on the Pacific coast most of the year. The males have shiny pinkish-red hoods and throats with white around their eyes. They have dark greenbacks and tails and green and grey stomachs. The females have a green body and cap with a white tip on their tails. Their throat may also have a metallic red or purple. The Costa hummingbird is similar, but it has a down-curved bill and a purple throat. Anna’s hummingbirds live year-round anywhere from northern Mexico to southern British Columbia.

Rufous hummingbird

The small Rufous hummingbird is the scrappiest hummingbird. The backs of the males are usually bright copper-orange; otherwise, their backs are green. They have a white ear patch and breasts. The crown, back, and neck of the females are green. Their breast and stomach are white with copper sides. Occasionally, their throats have an orange or red spot.

The Allen’s hummingbird is similar, but on the males, the crown and back have more green. The beak is also curved down and the outer tail feathers are narrower. The females aren’t too different. The rufous hummingbird migrates north to Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Canada via the Pacific coast, but they migrate south to Mexico via the Rocky Mountains. Their migration path is 3,900 miles or 6,275 kilometers one way.

Calliope hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird measures four inches long weighs 2 to 3 grams and is the smallest bird in the U. S. The throat of the males has long magenta feathers. They have a white breast and metallic green heads, flanks, and upper parts. The throats of the females are white with dark spots. The females, like the males, have a white breast and a metallic green head and back. The male mating dive is u-shaped.

To differentiate between the calliope and rufous female hummingbirds, the female rufous is larger, has more copper on the tail, and has a longer bill. They live in California in the summer and Mexico in the winter. The broad-tailed hummingbird is similar but with a fuller red throat and without a black chin. They also migrate north via the Pacific coast and south via the Rocky Mountains. During mating season, they are feisty enough to chase off even red-tailed hawks.

Broad-tailed hummingbird

The broad-tailed hummingbird is similar to the ruby-throated hummingbird, but it lives in the western half of the U. S. The males have a metallic red throat, green head, back, and tail, and a white breast. The larger females have a green head and back, white breast, speckled throat, and brown belly. From May to August, they live in mountain meadows in the western U. S. at up to 10,500-foot elevations.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird In Flight
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How To Attract Hummingbird To Your Yard

Trees, Shrubs, and Plants That Attract Hummingbirds

Because of their high activity level and their high metabolism, they need about half their weight in food daily according to Discover Wildlife. Their diet mostly consists of the nectar from flowers, although they do catch insects, especially when they are raising their young. Their reliance on the nectar of flowers requires them to continuously locate large areas of nearby flowering plants. Using the western U. S. as an example, in the spring, hummingbirds will stay in the lowlands. Then, they travel to the mountains in the summer and move higher in the mountains later in the season. They also locate trees where woodpeckers have created sap flows and feed there.

As hummingbirds feed on the nectar of flowers, they help pollinate the flowers. The flowers are usually fashioned for intended pollinators and block others. The hummingbird’s long beak is for this purpose.

To attract hummingbirds, the Smithsonian Institution recommends hummingbird feeders with long tubular flowers that hang down with orange or red petals. Specific flowers include bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, coral honeysuckle, and trumpet creeper.

The Las Vegas Sun recommends the weeping bottlebrush. It is a small tree from Australia that produces bright, red flowers in the spring and summer. Not only does it attract hummingbirds, but butterflies love it as well. It should be planted in dry soil away from grass and windy areas.

Click the link to read one of our posts that talk about the best places to hang these feeders in your yard to attract these marvelous birds!

Bird Food That Attracts Hummingbirds

Unlike other birds, hummingbirds are not attracted by birdseed. You need the right flowers, a hummingbird feeder, and insects to attract hummingbirds.

Other Things That Attract Hummingbirds

Having a hummingbird feeder with a 26-percent, non-sticky sugar solution will also attract hummingbirds. You can have more than one feeder in your yard, but because of the hummingbird’s tendency to be territorial about food, keep the feeders 15 to 20 feet away from each other and out of the line of sight.

FAQs About Hummingbirds

How do hummingbirds react to people?

Hummingbirds can get used to people and interact with them. Put out multiple feeders and build up traffic in your yard. Then, start sitting in your yard. The hummingbirds can become curious and investigate you. Finally, hold a container of sugar water and a hummingbird may come to feed. You may have to take your other feeders down temporarily.

Where can I place my feeder so hummingbirds will find it?

Hang your feeder in partial shade, but make sure a hummingbird can see it in flight. The shade keeps the sugar water from spoiling. Place it where hummingbirds will feel safe within 10 to 15 feet of protection and 5 feet above the ground. There should be nothing planted underneath it, but having flowers nearby that attract hummingbirds helps. A bit of red helps, but not red food coloring. Of course, it should be placed where you can see it.

Which is better a glass or plastic feeder?

If you buy a plastic feeder, make sure it is BPA-free. Plastic is lighter and not as breakable as glass. However, plastic can fade, crack, and warp, so the glass can be more durable over time. Glass feeders can also be easier to clean.

Why don’t hummingbirds use my feeder?

If you haven’t had any hummingbirds at your feeder yet, they just may not have found it yet. Your sugar and water blend could not be correct. You also need to know what time of year hummingbirds are in your area.

When do hummingbirds feed?

Hummingbirds may use your feeder any time during the day. However, they may be more likely to feed from dawn to early morning and from late afternoon to dusk.

How often should I refill my feeder?

It depends on how warm it is. During really warm temperatures, you should change it every two to three days. During cooler weather, you can change it every five to seven days. The goal is to keep the solution from spoiling.

How Hummingbirds Interact With Other Birds

Since hummingbirds are so small, they are prey for raptors. They are also intimidated by larger birds, so keep their feeders away from bird feeders for other birds.

How Hummingbirds Mate

The male hummingbirds gather in the tropics to form leks. They sing to attract the females. When the females arrive, the males compete to attract a mate. During a courtship dive, hummingbirds can reach up to 45 mph.

What Are Hummingbirds Social Patterns?

Because of their concern for protecting their food sources, other hummingbirds are seen as competitors, so they may chase other hummingbirds away from what they consider to be their territory even when they are migrating. The only time that hummingbirds socialize is mating season, but they don’t even permanently mate. Instead, the female tends to the eggs and the chicks.

If several hummingbird species are living in the same area, the species with the largest population will control the flowers. The less populated species have to slip in to feed.

How, When, and Where Do Hummingbirds Migrate

Although most hummingbirds live in the tropics, they can be found in North and South America from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego from up to 16,000-foot elevations in the Andes to below sea level according to the Smithsonian Institution. There are 17 species that nest in the United States. While one or two species will be found in every area of the U. S., most species are near the Mexican border. East of the Mississippi, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird.

The migration route takes ruby-throated hummingbirds across the Gulf of Mexico to Central America requiring them to fly for 18 to 20 hours and use the wind and their fat stores to successfully cross the gulf. Migration north and south is almost the same day every year. The rufous hummingbirds travel the furthest with a 6,000 kilometer trip between Alaska and Mexico.

15 Fun & Interesting Facts About Hummingbirds

The Hummingbird Is The Smallest Migrating Bird

Hummers are the smallest migrating bird. However, like many other bird species, they do not migrate in flocks. These birds generally travel alone for up to 500 miles at a time.

Hummingbirds Can Fly Backwards

Hummingbirds can fly backward. They are the only bird that can do this!

Hummingbirds Do Not Have A Sense Of Smell

Much to many’s surprise, hummers do not have a sense of smell. Therefore, they do not sniff out feeders. To find feeders and flowers, they use their excellent color vision.

Hummingbirds Weigh Less Than A Nickel

Hummingbirds are small in size and weigh less than a nickel.

Hummingbirds Can’t Walk Or Hop

On occasion, you may see a Hummingbird perched. They use their legs only for perching and moving sideways. They are unable to walk or hop like most birds.

Hummingbirds Consume Twice Their Body Weight In Nectar Each Day

Hummingbirds need to consume a lot of nectar each day. When they drink the nectar found in feeders, they move their tongues in and out of the feeder. They can do this about 13 times per second.

Hummingbirds Lay 2 Eggs On Average

Female Hummers lay about two eggs and their eggs are about the size of a jellybean. Their nests are about the size of a half-dollar.

A Flock Of Hummingbirds Has Many Names

A flock of hummingbirds is referred to by many names. These include a glittering, a tune, a shimmer, a bouquet, or a hover.

There Are Many Species Of Hummingbirds

In North and South America, there are well over 330 different species of hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds Can Create Hybrid Species

Various species of hummingbirds can breed together. When this happens, they create a hybrid species. For this reason, identification can be very challenging.

A Hummingbird Can Flap Its Wings Between 50-200 Times Per Second

The amount is dependant on their flight’s purpose, the surrounding air conditions, and the direction of flight.

Hummingbird Lifespan

In the wild, hummingbirds can live anywhere between 3-12 years. This depends on habitat conditions, predators, and many other factors.

Hummingbird Heartbeat

The hummingbird’s heart beats about 1,200 times per minute. The human heart beats only 60-100 bpm.

Hummingbird Breathing Rate

When resting, a hummingbird will take about 250 breaths per minute. However, when in flight, their breathing rate increases.

The Hummingbird’s Pectoral Muscle Make Up 25-30% Of Its Weight

The pectoral muscles are the broad chest muscles, which aids in flying.

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