Birds of the Backyard (Part 4)

“Time passes as fast as a hummingbird flutters.” – Anonymous

It has been some time since I did a “Birds of the Backyard” post. And while I have been working on other writing projects, I was reminded recently by some of my readers (K2 included), that they would like to read some more from that little corner of the blog.  So, after a brief hiatus, call it a migratory transition in search of a warmer climate like the bird in the post today, here is the next installment from the bird world that is outside my back door.  Without further ado, I give you our next contestant in the fictitious bird of the year contest that we have going here; it is small in size, fast in flight, insatiable in appetite, aggressive in defending its territory, and weighs in at just below that of a standard nickel…. you guessed it, the mighty hummingbird.

Hummingbirds get their name from the sound that their wings make while flying.  (Apologies to my sister, K6 if you are keeping score, whom I told that the hummingbird’s name comes from the fact that they could not remember the words, so they hummed.  She may or may not have believed that, but it is feasible she did).  But seriously, they are amazing creatures.  The aforementioned wings beat at between 50 to 200 flaps per second.  Their heartrate can reach an amazing 1,200 beats a minute. While they cannot walk or even hop, hummingbirds can reach a flying speed of up to 30mph and their diving speed can reach up to 60mph.  They can stop on a dime, hover in mid-air, dart left parallel to the ground, come back right perpendicular to the ground, go up, go down, zip forward and zip backward, and then—poof—they are gone.  Hummingbirds are very territorial and even fearless.  Often you can see one dominant bird chasing away would be sugar-water and nectar thieves, but they are also fond of chasing off other, larger bird species such as crows and even hawks.  In fairness to crows and hawks, they probably cannot see them coming.  Their bravado is matched by their appetite.  Hummingbirds can consume half their weight in sucrose daily.  It is a good thing they do, as they tend to convert 97% of that natural sucrose to pure energy within 20 minutes of consumption.  We should all be so lucky.  They also eat several insects and spiders to round out their holistic dietary plan.

There are some 325 species of hummingbirds around the world.  In the United States, all are migratory.  The Ruby Throated Hummingbird that is prevalent here in Tennessee, will make the flight across the Gulf of Mexico twice a year, a distance of 500 miles one way.  Refusing to be outdone, the Rufous Hummingbird migrates over 3,000 miles from Alaska to Mexico.  And regardless of what I told K6 about them hitching a ride on the back of seagulls, they in fact, fly that far all on their own.  Not too bad for a small little bird that starts out in an egg that is smaller in size than a jellybean.  Identifying the specific species can be tough for us amateur bird watchers.  While most species are more tropical, the ones here in the States have been known to cross breed and create hybrid species which further complicates the identification process in some circumstances.  Regardless of the species, hummingbirds are fascinating and fun to watch, and a worthy entry to our bird of the year contest.

More on hummingbirds here:

Happy Wandering!


Stopping while on approach
Sizing me up as a threat I think.
The final approach…
The coast is clear
One final look around…

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