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Hummingbirds, What Makes Them So Special?

Hummingbirds, What Makes Them So Special?

By Wild Birds Unlimited
Photographs courtesy of Wild Birds Unlimited

What makes hummingbirds so special? Size, for one…or the lack thereof. They really are the smallest of all birds, and yet, with more than 330 species, they are the second largest family of birds in the world.

A fact made even more remarkable when considering that they are found nowhere else on the planet except in the Americas. Not in Asia, not in Europe, not in Africa or anywhere else except the Western Hemisphere.

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They are the undisputed avian aerobatic flight champions, masters at hovering and the only birds able to fly backwards and upside down.

They have the fastest heart rate, the fastest wing beat, the fastest metabolism and the largest heart, in proportion to body size, of any bird.

A large heart, but a really small brain, the smallest of any bird…about the size of a BB! But it’s a good brain, capable of navigating thousands of miles to migrate back to the exact same feeder year after year.

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And the smallest of all birds has one of the biggest appetites…ingesting up to eight times their weight in solid food and liquid every day. How much is eight times your body weight?

As for that “solid” food…they use the flexible tip of their bill to capture insects and insect eggs from the ground and on plants. They love spiders and spider eggs. And as for the “liquid” portion, their forked, open-grooved tongues lap up nectar from the feeders and flowers at an amazing 12 times a second.

Check out the Decorative Hummingbird Window feeder so you can view this behavior up close for yourself.

So maybe they aren’t too good to be true…but they are too good to miss! Be sure to follow their spring migration here so you can know when they will be in your neighborhood.

Do you have your feeder out yet?


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