Hummingbird Facts: Animals of North America

One of the smallest birds on the planet, hummingbirds are best known for their unique ability to hover in midair and fly in any direction.

5. Physical Description

Hummingbird species have the distinction of being some of the smallest birds in the world. These minute birds are part of the Trochilidae Family. Their physical appearance is characterized by the presence of colorful feathers, which vary in color depending upon the angle at which the light hits them. These tiny creatures usually measure between seven-and-a-half to eight inches long. The hummingbird is so named because of the rapid flapping of its wings, which creates a humming sound. This distinctive bird also has a long bill which is tapered at the end in order to enable them to obtain nectar from flowers. Hummingbirds have the unique abilities of hovering in mid-air and flying backwards.

4. Diet

The typical diet for a hummingbird consists of flower nectar and sap from trees, as well as pollen, insects, and spiders. Because of the hummingbird’s rapid heart beat and elevated body temperature, these animals have high metabolic needs relative to their size. Every day of their lives they are require to consume a great deal of food, which must be eaten across multiple feedings a day. In order to satisfy their voracious appetites, hummingbirds must move quickly from one food source to another. Nectar provides these animals with various types of sugars, which are supplemented by protein, vitamins, and minerals from other plant matter and insects. At meal time, this species uses its long tongue to lick its food at an astonishingly fast rate, reaching approximately 13 licks per second.

3. Habitat and Range

Some 340 species of hummingbirds are native to the New World, across North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. Their range runs from the southern portion of Alaska all the way down to the southernmost regions of Chile. Most hummingbirds can be found inhabiting tropical areas in the central and southern regions of the American continent. Because of the continual destruction of their natural habitats, several kinds of hummingbirds are considered to be Endangered", "Criticically Endangered", "Near Threatened", or "Vulernable" species. Changes in climate conditions have also resulted in major problems for the hummingbird, as the species in the family have been forced to venture farther out of their typical ranges in search of food. Other threats to hummingbirds include larger predatory birds, such as owls, hawks, herons, and gulls.

2. Behavior

Despite their tiny sizes, hummingbirds can be aggressive when it comes to protecting their territories. Contributing to their high metabolic rates, these birds will continually keep moving and flapping their wings rapidly. These types of birds are popular visitors to the homes of those people who put feeders in their yards to attract avian wildlife. Hummingbirds have great difficulties in walking, and usually just perch on the feeders. This behavior is due to the unique structure of the birds' feet, which makes the animal much more suited to flying rather than walking. Hummingbirds have the distinctive ability to fly in all directions, whether that be up, down, backwards, forwards, and even sideways as well.

1. Reproduction

Male hummingbirds use their brightly colored plumages in order to attract females of their own species. The mating ritual of these birds is an elaborate one, and typically consists of the male flying far up in the air before diving down over his potential mate. During this time, males will also vibrate their back feathers and emit chirping sounds. These tiny birds tend to have between one and three eggs at a time, and their gestation period runs between thirteen and twenty-two days. The female is solely responsible for tending the nest and caring for the needs of her young. Baby hummingbirds are able to begin flying when as young as between eighteen and thirty days old. Hummingbirds have a life expectancy of approximately four years.

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