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Episode 67: Hmm, Hummingbirds

A charismatic bird, Hummingbirds are unique animals native to the Americas. These fast fliers have incredible physiological adaptations that give them the ability to conduct their aerial acrobatics.  Sadly, over 10% of all Hummingbird species are threatened with extinction.

Hummingbird Description

There are 328 known species of Hummingbirds, with more to be discovered. On average, Hummingbirds are 3-5 in (7.5 – 13 cm) in length and many are covered in very colorful and iridescent feathers. This means the colors change depending on your viewing angle of the bird.  The smallest Hummingbird is the Bee Hummingbird at 2 in (5 cm) in length, with the largest being the Giant Hummingbird at 9 in (23 cm) in length.

Hummingbird Facts

Humming birds are well known for their flying ability. They can hover while they feed by flapping their wings in a figure 8 pattern. Their wings can beat for 80 to up to 200 beats per SECOND. To be able to fly like this, Hummingbirds have an incredible metabolic system, allowing them to sustain flight. Their hearts beat an amazing 1200 beats per minute.

To survive, a Hummingbird must feed, mainly nectar, every 15 minutes. While they eat a high caloric diet, it only averages to 3.5 to 7 calories per day. However, if their size was equivalent to a human, that would equal to roughly 155,000 calories per day (average human diet is 2500 calories per day).

  • Over 40% of all Hummingbird species live within the Andes mountain region.
  • These birds on average migrate 500 miles a year, with the Rufus Hummingbird migrating over 3,000 miles from Mexico to Alaska
  • Some studies have shown Hummingbirds feeding on 20 flowers per minutes
  • Their tongues are split and work as a vacuum to drink nectar


Hummingbird Conservation

Over 10% of all Hummingbirds are threatened with extinction, with many of these living in South America. The Hummingbird Society lists some of the more endangered birds HERE.

Conservation Tips

If you live in the Americas you can plant the following to attract Hummingbirds to your yard:

  • Beebalm
  • Honeysuckle
  • Sages
  • Native flowers
  • Nectar feeders

You can visit the Audubon Society Website HERE to learn more.

Further Education for Free

The Horse Course (Chris’s online horse class)

Paleontology: Dinosaurs to Birds

Organizations to Support

American Bird Conservancy

Hummingbird Society  


January 08, 2019
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