Tag Archives: hummingbirds

940 Feathers: Appreciating Hummingbirds

male hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Feathers: Some feathers on a hummingbird hold bright radiant color. This coloring comes from iridescent coloring like on a soap bubble or prism and requires sunlight to show these colors off. An average sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers. This is more feathers per square inch of their body than any other bird in the animal kingdom. – Hummingbird Anatomy

female hummingbird

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Eyes: Hummingbirds have very large eyes in proportion to their body weight. The eyes are set on the side of the head allowing the hummingbird to see both ahead (binocular vision) and on the side peripherally (monocular vision). Hummingbirds have many more rods and cones than humans in their eyes to help them see well. This makes them better able to see colors and ultraviolet light. Hummingbird’s eyes will regularly outweigh a hummingbird’s brain. – Hummingbird Anatomy

male hummingbird

Beak: The beak or bill on a hummingbird is longer in proportion to their body than other birds. This is so they can reach deep down into a tubular flower to get the nectar. A hummingbird’s beak is not hollow. They do not sip nectar up like a straw. The beak or bill has an upper and lower portion, much like any other bird. – Hummingbird Anatomy

“I like to imagine they use their beaks for fencing.” – my daughter Anna

hummingbirdII

Haida hummingbird art by April White

Northwest Tribal Art Symbols: A literal messenger of joy, this beautiful tiny bird, also called Sah Sen, represents friendship, playfulness, and is a symbol of good luck in Northwest Coastal Native art.

And more from World of Hummingbirds/ Anatomy...

Tongue: The tongue on a hummingbird is very long. It is grooved like the shape of a “W”. On the tip of the tongue are brushy hairs that help lap up nectar from a flower. A hummingbird can lap up nectar at a rate of about thirteen (13) licks per second. Hummingbirds have only a few taste buds on the tongue. Hummingbirds can taste just enough to know what is good and what is bad. They can also taste what too sweet, not sweet enough, or just right.

Nostrils: Hummingbird nostrils are located at the base of the beak. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.

Bones: In order to be as lightweight as possible, most of the hummingbird’s bones are extremely porous. Some hummingbird bones, like those in the wings and legs, are hollow to save even more weight.

Brain: A hummingbird’s brain is approximately 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. Hummingbirds are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.

Wings: A hummingbird’s wings are unlike any other bird’s wings. They allow a hummingbird fly forward, backward, hover, and even fly upside-down for a short period of time. Hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can fly like this. A hummingbird can perform these feats of acrobatics for several reasons. First of all their shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint that allows the hummingbird to rotate their wings one hundred eighty (180) degrees in all directions. Hummingbird wings with beat about seventy (70) times per second while in regular flight and up to 200 times per second when diving. (Smaller hummingbird’s wings beat about thirty-eight (38) to about seventy-eight (78) times a second while larger ones beat their wings about eighteen (18) to twenty-eight (28) times per second.) Hummingbirds don’t flap their wings, they rotate them. When hummingbirds fly, they move their wings in an oval pattern, except when they are hovering. When they are hovering they will move their wings in a figure-eight motion. A hummingbird can fly at an average speed of twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) miles per hour, and dive at a speed of up to sixty (60) miles per hour.

When hummingbirds fly, they fly upright, facing the world, not flat like most birds. – World of Hummingbirds

Feeding hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Hello, bird! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits our backyard.

I finally took the hint and bought them a feeder.

Two weeks ago I was buzzed a couple of times while sitting on the back deck with a book and glass of wine. Hummers really do sound like big bumblebees. Two days later my daughter Anna was doing dishes when a hummingbird came and hovered at the kitchen window, staring at her. “He looked into my soul,” she said.

The first skinny, tiny, hungry migrants arrived in coastal New Hampshire three weeks ago. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico and Central America. In spring, they fly from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida and Louisiana, across the Gulf of Mexico – 500 miles over open water!

Hummingbird feeder

I did some research and decided to order a Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder from Amazon.

It has a perch around the rim so they don’t have to hover and expend energy while they feed. (Also, then they hold still for photos!) It has an “ant moat” in the middle to keep ants from getting to the nectar.

The cover is bright red to attract hummingbirds and it snaps off easily for cleaning and filling.

Pensive hummingbird

I like to imagine this little bird is appreciating this newly discovered food source.

Recipe for hummingbird nectar:

• Boil 1 cup of water

• Add 1/4 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve (4:1 ratio water to sugar)

• Let cool to room temperature and serve

No need to add red dye. If it’s cold and rainy, or near migration time, you can make the nectar a bit more concentrated… as much as a 3:1 ratio.

The first hummingbird dinner guest arrived the day after I put up the feeder. I celebrated by creating a new cocktail I call The Ruby-throated Hummingbird…

Cocktail

Mix melon schnapps (or Midori melon liqueur) with vodka and some simple syrup… or homemade hummingbird nectar! Carefully and slowly pour a “floater” (it sinks) of Grenadine. Top with crushed ice.

Sip slowly on the back deck in view of the hummingbird feeder. Don’t worry about scaring them off. They are tiny but they are bold, not shy.

Do you feed hummingbirds? Any tips on what works (or doesn’t) in your yard?

Good info: Birdwatchers.com: Debbie’s Tips for Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds