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Hummingbird guide: Information, facts and Nectar recipes

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Hello, hummingbird lovers and natural world enthusiasts! Today, we'll dive into the fascinating world of hummingbirds - these tiny birds that captivate us with their brilliant colors, high energy, and unique characteristics. You'll discover the diversity within the hummingbird species, their habitats, their roles in the ecosystem, and how we can help them amid the threats they face.

black chinned hummingbird on a feeder

Unraveling the Diversity of Hummingbird Species

Hummingbirds, members of the hummingbird family, are a large group of small birds that originated in the New World, specifically Central and South America. There are over 300 hummingbird species, each remarkable in its own right. The world’s smallest birds, bee hummingbirds of Cuba, for instance, weigh less than a penny!

On the flip side, we have the giant hummingbird, the largest member of the hummingbird family, almost the size of a sparrow. Eastern North America is home to the average ruby-throated hummingbird (archilochus colubris) known for its glittering red throat visible at close range.

Western United States is home to several other species, including Anna's hummingbird, the broad-tailed hummingbird, and the black-chinned hummingbird. The rufous hummingbird, recognizable by its reddish-brown hues, migrates to its breeding grounds in the western hemisphere every early spring, one of the longest migration routes of any hummingbird species.

Unique Features of Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the only birds capable of hovering in mid-air at both high speeds and close range thanks to their small size and slender bill. Their tiny feet are perfect for perching on tree branches but are too small to walk or hop.

The long tongues of these little birds are specially adapted to extract nectar from tubular flowers. Their brilliant colors, especially in adult males, are breathtaking when seen at close range.

A hummingbird's body temperature drops significantly during cold nights, entering a hibernation-like state called torpor. This ability to lower their body temperature helps these amazing birds conserve much energy due to their high metabolic demands.

The females are master architects, building cup-shaped hummingbird nests often using spider webs, lichen, and small plant fibers, usually on the tree branches. A hummingbird egg is about the size of a jellybean. Once the young bird, or the 'young hummer,' hatches, the female tirelessly gathers food, often small insects, a crucial food source for the growing bird.

Hummingbirds and their Habitats

Hummingbirds live in diverse habitats - from tropical areas, specifically the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, to mountain meadows in the western United States.

However, these habitats are increasingly threatened by climate change and habitat loss. For instance, the rufous hummingbird is one species seeing its breeding grounds recede due to warmer temperatures.

Body Weight and Temperature

Despite their small size, hummingbirds possess remarkable physical attributes. The average weight of a hummingbird ranges from 2 to 20 grams, depending on the species. They have a high body temperature, which ranges from 105 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing them to maintain their rapid metabolism.

Hummingbird Nests and Breeding

Hummingbirds are known for their exquisite nest-building skills. The females construct cup-shaped nests made of spider webs, plant fibers, and other natural materials. These nests are typically found on tree branches, providing a safe haven for their young during the breeding season.

Feeding Habits and Energy Requirements

Hummingbirds have a unique feeding behavior. They primarily rely on nectar from tubular flowers, using their slender bills and long tongues to access the sweet reward. Additionally, they feed on small insects to meet their protein requirements. To sustain their high metabolic demands, hummingbirds must consume a significant amount of food each day, often visiting numerous flowers and feeders.

How to Attract Hummingbirds

To help these amazing birds, consider adding a backyard feeder or window feeders with a nectar solution (avoid artificial sweeteners and red dye). Opt for the best hummingbird feeders with a bee guard to prevent other insects from accessing the feeder.

Also, grow native plants in your outdoor space. Plants like bee balm and those with red or orange flowers attract hummingbirds. They also prefer flowers with high nectar production and tubular shape, fitting their long hummingbird bills.

Making hummingbird nectar at home is a simple and cost-effective way to attract hummingbirds. 

Here's an easy recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of granulated white sugar
  • 4 cups of water

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Remove the saucepan from heat and add 1 cup of granulated white sugar to the hot water.
  3. Stir the mixture until the sugar completely dissolves.
  4. Allow the nectar to cool to room temperature.
  5. Pour the homemade nectar into a clean hummingbird feeder.

Important Tips:

  • It is crucial to use only white granulated sugar for hummingbird nectar. Do not use brown sugar, honey, or artificial sweeteners, as they can be harmful to hummingbirds.
  • Avoid adding any red food coloring or dye to the nectar. The bright color of the feeder is sufficient to attract hummingbirds.
  • Clean and refill your feeder every 3 to 5 days, especially in warmer weather, to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.

Remember, providing a fresh and clean nectar source is essential for the well-being of hummingbirds. Enjoy watching these beautiful creatures visit your backyard!

FAQs about Hummingbirds

Q: Can a hummingbird's wings really move in a figure-eight pattern?

A: Yes, it’s the rapid figure-eight motion that enables the unique hovering flight of these small birds.

Q: How can hummingbirds maintain such high energy levels?

A: Hummingbirds consume up to half their body weight in food each day and spend a lot of time resting to meet their high energy demands.

Q: Is it true that hummingbirds migrate alone?

A: Yes, hummingbirds typically migrate alone for long periods, often following the same path year after year.

Q: Do all hummingbirds have red throats?

A: No, not all hummingbirds have red throats. It's a characteristic mostly seen in adult male ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Q: How long does a hummingbird live?

A: Hummingbirds have an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years, although some species can live up to 10 years.

Q: Do hummingbirds migrate?

A: Yes, many hummingbird species migrate to different regions during different seasons. For example, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird travels from Eastern North America to Central America during the winter.

Q: How many eggs do hummingbirds lay?

A: Hummingbirds typically lay 1 to 3 eggs per clutch, and the female is solely responsible for incubating the eggs.

Best hummingbird tools available on Amazon:

ToolDescriptionPrice
1. Hummingbird FeederA high-quality feeder with multiple feeding ports and a built-in bee guard to attract hummingbirds.$19.99
2. Hummingbird NectarA ready-to-use nectar solution with no artificial sweeteners, designed specifically for hummingbirds.$8.99
3. Hummingbird SwingA decorative swing perch that provides a resting spot for hummingbirds to observe their surroundings.$12.99
4. Hummingbird BathA shallow water bath with a textured surface, perfect for hummingbirds to cool off and clean their feathers.$24.99
5. Hummingbird GuideA comprehensive guidebook with information on attracting, feeding, and identifying hummingbirds.$14.95

Note: Prices are subject to change. Please check the Amazon product pages for the most up-to-date information.

These tools can enhance your hummingbird-watching experience and create a welcoming environment for these delightful birds in your backyard.


In the fascinating world of hummingbirds, the diversity is staggering. With hundreds of species of hummingbirds, each with its unique traits, these tiny birds never cease to amaze. Not all hummingbirds are created equal - their size varies considerably among species. From the tiny hummingbird, the Calliope hummingbird, one of the smallest hummingbirds in North America, to the sword-billed hummingbird from South America, known for its extraordinarily long bill, these species showcase an impressive range of physical attributes and adaptations.

Female hummingbirds, while often not as brightly colored as their male counterparts, play a crucial role in the hummingbird's lifecycle. They're solely responsible for building the nest, incubating eggs, and caring for the young hummers once they hatch. These hardworking moms select nest sites carefully, preferring locations that offer safety, shelter, and proximity to food sources.

Not to be confused with the hummingbird, the hummingbird moth is an intriguing species in its own right. This moth, found primarily in the Old World, is often mistaken for a hummingbird due to its similar size and feeding habits. Unlike most moths, the hummingbird moth is active during the day, feeding on nectar from flowers, much like the hummingbird itself.

When observing hummingbirds, you might notice their small feet. Contrary to what you might expect, these tiny feet aren't used for walking or hopping. Instead, hummingbirds use their small feet for perching when they're not flying. They're one of the few bird species that can hover in mid-air, thanks to their rapid wing-beat and unique body design.

Another fascinating attribute is the hummingbird's tongue. Unlike human tongues, a hummingbird's tongue is long and forked, designed to reach deep into flowers to access nectar. It's also capable of rapid movement, allowing them to drink nectar at a much faster rate than the human's average heart rate!

While hummingbirds add beauty and vibrancy to our natural world, they also play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. They're vital pollinators, transferring pollen as they feed on nectar. They also help control insect populations by consuming small insects, particularly during the breeding season when their protein needs increase.

The smaller species of hummingbirds, with their agility and speed, are particularly adept at accessing flowers that other birds or insects can't reach. Their presence helps diversify the plant life in their habitats, leading to richer and more varied natural resources.

Hummingbirds, especially the American birds, are also a testament to the wonders of evolution. Their vibrant colors, such as the red flowers seen in many male hummingbirds and the iridescent green of their outer tail feathers, are a result of both genetic inheritance and environmental factors.

In conclusion, the hummingbird's world is one of wonder and beauty, resilience and resourcefulness. These tiny birds, in all their myriad forms, from the smallest hummingbirds to the more exotic species, bring joy and fascination to those lucky enough to observe them in their natural habitats. Let's continue to appreciate and protect these remarkable creatures and the natural resources they help sustain. Happy bird watching!

Hummingbird Key Takeaways

  1. There are over 300 hummingbird species ranging from the world’s smallest birds, the bee hummingbird of Cuba, to the giant hummingbird.
  2. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover in mid-air due to their small size and rapid wing movement.
  3. They possess long tongues to extract nectar from tubular flowers.
  4. Hummingbird's habitats range from tropical rainforests to mountain meadows.
  5. Climate change and habitat loss pose a significant threat to hummingbird populations.
  6. To attract hummingbirds, you can set up nectar feeders and grow native plants in your outdoor space.

Let's do our part to help these tiny jewels of the natural world thrive. Remember, your backyard feeder could become a lifeline for these little birds during breeding season, migration, or periods of food scarcity.

Next time you see a hummingbird, marvel at their direct flight, take in their brilliant colors, and remember - despite their small size, they have the resilience to overcome many challenges in the natural world. From the world's smallest hummingbird to the larger and equally impressive species, each hummingbird is a testament to the wonders of the natural world. Happy birding!

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