Life of the Hummingbird

by MBC

Hummingbirds are fascinating and enchanting little birds. This article will have a deep look at how hummingbirds are different from other birds. I’m sure you will learn a lot here

Hummingbirds are amazing, captivating and remarkable. Did you know that there are 350 species of Hummingbirds and they all live in the Western Hemisphere? Most live near the equator, but 15 species live in the United States. They happen to be the smallest warm-blooded creatures. Due to having a special flexible shoulder they can do a figure eight with their wings enabling them to fly backwards and to hover which no other bird can do. They can even fly upside down and backwards! They are very agile in the air making them unique among the avians. Adult hummingbirds lack down which could keep them warm. Hummers can live up to 12 years, but most live 5 to 8 years.

The primary food of the Hummingbird is flower nectar, but they also eat bugs for protein. They must eat half of their body weight in nectar, which means visiting about 1000 blooms per day. They have a very fast metabolism. Their heart rate can reach 600 beats per minute or 200 wing beats/second –that’s fast. You can observe them fighting in midair in another bird tries to trespass on their bloom. To conserve energy they will perch and fluff their coat to retain body heat and they then enter torpor (almost like hibernation) at night. Their body temperature can drop by more than half during torpor. Also their heart beat can drop to about 26 beats per minute. Sort of like a very good yogi!
A few hummingbirds only eat flowers that grow close to the ground so that they can hop from one flower to another rather than hovering which takes a lot of energy.

They have some cool names for other countries such as: in Portugal the word is beija flor or flower kisser or in Mexico chuparosa or rose sucker.

Mating Displays of the Male Hummingbird and Reproduction

Many of the species of hummingbirds will perform mating displays that are spectacular.  For example, the Anna’s will dive, chirp, spread it’s tail and turn it’s head feathers red. The female hummer raises her young alone.  The nest of each species of hummingbird can vary. The eggs that they lay are about the size of a tic-tak breath mint.  It takes about 2 weeks to hatch.  The mom will feed the baby chicks by regurgitating both nectar and insects.

What Do Hummingbirds Use to Suck Nectar?

It is FALSELY believed that their bill is a tiny straw used to suck the nectar.  If you believed this you were wrong.  Actually Hummingbirds have a hairy tongue that helps them to lap nectar approximately 13 times per second.  Yep that's fast!  Several of the hummer breeds consume as much as 3 times their body weight, especially just before taking off for migration in order to store up energy.

Helping a Hummingbird Get out of a House

How do Hummingbirds Get Along with Hawks?

This may surprise you. 

Actually, one species called the Black Chinned Hummingbird will nest in clusters near a Coopers Hawk.  This is due to the fact that all the favorite foods of the Coopers Hawk are enemies of the Hummingbird, therefor, the hawk helps protect the hummers by what they eat.  Also the hawk does not bother the hummingbirds because they are too small to be tempting to eat.  So hummers and hawks make good neighbors.

You will need some good quality of optics to see your Hummingbird friends clearly.

Click the blue text link to purchase

Hummingbird Migration Facts

Most species of hummingbirds are seasonal migrants between the US/Canada and Mexico often they migrate about 6000 miles and they need to cross the Gulf of Mexico – with no food until they land - this is a life challenge. They return to the same breeding grounds yearly.  They must go on an eating binge just before making their migration in order to have the energy to sustain the flight. In recent years some migration patterns have changed and now some hummers go to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area rather than going all the way across the Golf Coast.

There are some breads that do not migrate (or at least not far) and they include the Anna's Hummingbird and the Costa's that stay near the same habitat of Southern California and Arizona.

Gift Someone a Lovely Silver Hummingbird Necklace

She's Bound to Love This

Hats are to Blame for the Murders of Millions of Hummingbirds

There was a period of time when Hummingbird feathers were much sought after because of the iridescent plumage, especially the wing and breast feathers, for decorating fashionable hats.

Humingbird Lego Sculpture Exhibit at the Denver Zoo

Humingbird Lego Sculpture Exhibit at the Zoo
Humingbird Lego Sculpture Exhibit at the Zoo
Personal photo

Gift Someone a Hummingbird Feeder this Year

Here's a Reasonably Priced One

This one can feed 8 birds at once. Things to be mindful of when you start using a hummingbird feeder.  Please watch for black spots which means there is fungus in the sugar water - this is deadly.  Be sure to clean the feeder and change the sugar every 3 days or so.  Yes, this is high maintenance.  If you are going out of town - take the feeder down temporarily to avoid any fungus issues - which do more harm that good.

A Key Fact to Know About Water for Your Hummers

They really prefer water from misters or dripping devices.  Remember there is lots of fog or mist in the rainforest where you often find hummers. So incorporate a mister near flowers or by their nest or near food.  Their preferred method of bathing is to fly through a mist of water.  If you have a pond consider installing a spray feature.  This will make your hummers happy!

How Smart is a Hummingbird?

Well if you can judge by the size of their head - they are pretty smart.  Hummingbirds have the largest heads in relation to their bodies of all birds on the planet.

Another interesting fact is that even though a diving falcon does reach a higher speed in miles per hour, if we go by body length per second then the hummingbirds dive is practically twice as fast at the peregrine.

Humingbird Habitats are Threatened

There is a very special species of hummer called the Spatule Tail from Peru that faces extinction due to habitat loss.  It is pretty spectacular to watch the Spatule tail twirt its tail to display and attract a mate. They have recently created the Spatule Tail Reserve Bird Sanctuary where they have planted 17,000 trees in an attempt to save this species of hummingbird.


Stages of Development Which the Rehabber Needs to Identify

Terry Masear calls one to three day old hummingbirds Naked Babies. These birds usually arrive at rehab in their original nests.  At each stage of development the care is modified and becomes less and less restrictive until the bird is able to be released back to the wild.  Naked babies are so small they must be fed using magnification.  (The shells are approximately the size of a jellybean so you can imagine how tine the bird inside is.)  They are also naked and cannot generate their own body heat so they require a heated ICU.  They must be fed every 30 minutes starting at 5:30 a.m. and many Nakes Babies do not survive.  Once they survive from 4 to 7 days they are renamed dinofuzz they now exhibit some down on their bodies.  Tree and bush trimming are usually the reason for the arrival on dinofuzz babies info rehab.  Next they morph into bobble-heads when they start to grow rapidly day to day.  Their eyes are only slits at the bobble-head stage.  Feeding a bobble-head takes precision and practice.

Next comes the pinfeathered stage from between 10-15 days old.  Their eyes are now opened.  Their feathers are in white rows.  After a few days these feathers become technicolor.  These tiny birds scratch their heads like mad with their feet – it must itch and it helps the feathers emerge.  Now they turn into the feather-duster stage when they can hold their heads still to eat (making it much easier).

Once they are about 3 weeks old and their feathers have completely unfurled they are called pre-fledglings and they actually look like hummingbirds except the breast-bone and belly get feathers last.  They begin to crawl around and pile up on the other nestlings.  They can also now perch on the side of the cup or nest and exercise their wings by spinning them.  Usually between 24 and 28 days old they lift off and they then get moved to a starter cage.  Of course birds can arrive injured at any stage of development.  The starter cage has 2 sets of dowels at 2” and 8”.  They can start out moving low on the 2” dowels and progress at their own speed.  They now learn to self-feed (hurrah!) though they can still be high maintenance.  About 10 percent of these fledglings will refuse to feed themselves and the rehabber must do it for them.  They are now with one or two cage mates.  Sometimes rearranging is required until the perfect cage mate is found.  The skills that must be mastered now include perching, flying frontward and backward, spinning in the air and self-feeding which keeps them busy.

The fledglings must be able to sleep through 7 successive nights without falling off the perch they will be promoted to a large flight cage. If you find a hummingbird DO NOT WRAP THEM IN TOWELS.  The reason is that many rescuers try to wrap them in towels and the baby birds get their toe nails or claws caught in the loops of the towel and often get pulled off.  This can disable the bird and is very painful! A large flight cage is 2 tall by 3 feet long and wrapped in chicken wire so the young birds can see out.  More birds can be added to the cage now.  They are fed with fresh flower blooms and stinky bananas which are great at providing fruit flies for protein.  A bathtub is also provided now.

Why Are They Called Hummers?

Have you ever heard a hummingbird bombard past your ear? Question explained.  Their wings beat so fast that it makes a distinct humming sound when they fly.


The smallest Hummingbird is called the Bee Hummingbird and it resides in Cuba.  Now that Cuba is open to American travelers, you might want to try to see one of these!

Hummer at a Feeder in Morrison Colorado

Hummer at a Feeder in Morrison Colorado
Hummer at a Feeder in Morrison Colorado

Some Other Articles I've Written

This is a book review of a Memoir by Melissa Hart called Wild Within
These are some fun suggestions on decorating as well as other cool Halloween ambiance.
This article will make suggestions for attracting butterflies and or birds to your garden. Sometimes the same plant works to attract both butterflies and birds.
Learn about the family Falconidae or falcons. These birds of prey are fascinating and beautiful. Hunters train them.

Black-chinned Hummingbird photo taken by M. Camblin at Echo Lake Colorado

Black-chinned Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
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Join Wizzley Today and Start Writing
Updated: 04/16/2019, MBC
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MBC on 10/28/2016

Yes, I wait each year for their return in the spring. Thanks for your comment and your visit.

happynutritionist on 10/27/2016

Beautiful page, I came over from mine that you had visited a while ago. I was reading the part about how they eat, I've watched mine and have seen that long thin tongue appear when they are just sitting. Also noticed how they love to eat when it is raining. They have migrated away for the winter now, the feeder is put away until April.

MBC on 09/07/2016

Great to get your endorsement! Thanks for visiting and enjoy your little hummers!

katiem2 on 09/02/2016

I love humming,birds they are still coming to my three feeders on my back deck. I have the feeder you have featured in this article and they love it better than any other feeder. I will only buy that type from here out. Thanks

candy47 on 07/17/2016

As always your photos are stunning. Hummingbird feeder is next on my list!

MBC on 01/19/2016

Actually hummingbirds are my favorite birds at feeders. They are so happy!

Tolovaj on 01/19/2016

Amazing creatures! I have never seen one of hummingbirds, but your article convinced me I should travel more. We have some butterflies, what is probably best approximation, yet not nearly the same thing. Thanks for all the fascinating facts about hummers!

CruiseReady on 08/28/2015

Very interesting little tidbit about the Hummingbirds and the Coopers Hawk. We have no hummingbirds that come to our yard, but don't do anything to attract them, either. Cat, like you. But I see them when we go to to family farm. They are such a joy to watch.

MBC on 08/16/2015

Yes, I wish I could have a feeder, but I have a cat so no way.

MBC on 08/16/2015

Thanks for the visit. I'll be adding more over time.

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