15 Facts About Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are native to the New World and you will not find them outside of the Western Hemisphere, but they are one of the most fascinating species for bird lovers the world over.
Famed for their brilliant plumage and flying and hovering abilities, here are 15 fascinating facts about hummingbirds.
Number of species
Worldwide there are over 325 species of hummingbirds. Just 8 species breed in the USA although up to 24 species may visit. The rest are found in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
The brilliant throat colour of hummingbirds is caused by iridescence in the arrangement of their feathers and is affected by light and moisture.
Number of feathers
Hummingbirds have just 1,000-1,500 feathers which is the fewest number of feathers of any bird species in the world.
Unable to walk
Hummingbirds are unable to walk or hop but their feet can be used to move sideways when they are perched.
The bee hummingbird, which is only found in Cuba is the smallest of all hummingbirds measuring just 5.7 cm in length and weighing less than 2 grams. The average weight of a hummingbird is about 3 grams.
A hummingbird needs to eat about half of its body weight in sugar every day and will feed approximately 5-8 times in an hour.
Hummingbirds digest natural sucrose in about 20 minutes with a 97% efficiency for converting the sugar into energy.
Hummingbirds do not suck nectar through their long bills but lick it using a forked tongue that is fringed. They can lick between 10 and 15 times a second when feeding.
When resting a hummingbird will take about 250 breaths a minute and its heart will beat about 1200 times.
Hummingbirds fly at a maximum of 30 mph but can reach 60 mph in a dive. A hummingbird will flap its wings between 50 and 200 times a second when in flight and they are the only group of birds with the ability to fly backwards.
The hummingbird lays the smallest eggs of all birds measuring just 1.3 cm. This, however, can be as much as 10% of the mother’s weight.
Over a quarter of a hummingbirds weight is in its pectoral muscles which help them to fly.
No sense of smell
Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but they have excellent eyesight.
The bill of the sword-billed hummingbird, which is found in the Andes, can reach up to 4 inches long.
Despite their small size, hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive species of birds and will regularly attack jays, crows and hawks that encroach on their territory.