It happens every spring, colorful hummingbird feeders are filled with sugary nectar and hung from the eaves and branches in hopes that some hummingbirds soon will appear. Sure enough, the tiny powerhouses of avian energy make their way north when the weather turns warmer. A few warm coastal areas and inland deserts enjoy year-round hummingbirds, but for the rest of the country, they’re a colorful sign that spring has indeed sprung.The tiny birds can fly at speeds up to 34 miles per hour, their diving speeds are up to 60 miles per hour, and some species make non-stop 500 mile flights across water. Add that to their ability to hover and fly backward and you’ve got one amazing bird! It’s no surprise that the Aztec god Huitzilopcohtli is often depicted as a hummingbird, and the Ohlone have a story that tells how Hummingbird brought fire to the world. Hummingbirds are surrounded by myths and legends.
Do they really live off nectar?
Nope. Nectar is really just a quick fuel to power their ability to chase down their real diet: tiny insects and flies. A great reason to have lots of plants and not use a bunch of insecticide on your yard!
So, how do they drink the nectar? Do they suck it up with their bills?
Old wisdom said hummingbirds sucked up nectar through tubes in their tongues. Today, super-fast videos have shown their tongues actually kind of open up and trap the nectar. The unknown part is how they swallow the fluid – scientists are just calling it hummingbird magic for now.
Hummingbirds never perch, because they don’t have feet, right?
They do perch, and they do have feet, in fact, they often wind up sleeping hanging upside down, gripping a branch with their feet. What hummingbirds don’t do is walk, their legs are too far back on their body for that.
If I leave my feeder up in the fall, will it delay the hummingbird migration?
The short answer is no. Hummer migration is dictated by shorter fall days, not lack of food. Keeping a feeder up may actually be beneficial to stragglers who migrate late, but will not cause a healthy bird to delay its migration.
A few facts
- There are more than 325 hummingbird species in the world
- The smallest hummingbird is the Bee Hummingbird species at a mere 2.25 inches
- The average Ruby Throated Hummingbird weighs just 3 grams – a nickel weighs 4.5 grams
- Hummingbird wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second – depending on the direction of flight and air conditions
- The Rofous Hummingbird has the longest migration – over 3,000 miles between its nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to its winter habitat in Mexico
- Hummingbirds are incredibly territorial and aggressive little critters and will attack much larger birds like jays, crows and even hawks
Combine 1 part sugar with four parts water and heat to completely dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool before filling the feeder. Unused nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Please do not add any dye to the nectar, it’s not necessary and may actually be harmful to the birds.