The first Saturday of September is National Hummingbird Day! Let’s celebrate this amazing and beautiful pollinator.
In the hummingbird world, parenting responsibilities rest solely on the mother’s tiny shoulders. After her jelly bean–size chicks are born, she provides them with protein in the form of miniscule insects every 20 minutes. Two weeks later she turns her attention to teaching her fledglings the art of aeronautics — how to hover, dive, and defend their territories, how to catch mosquitoes in midair, and even how to snitch prey from a spider’s web before its owner can get to the catch. She also passes along her knowledge of which flowers replenish their nectar most frequently. With their mama’s guidance, baby hummers enter adulthood by their one-month birthdays fully prepared to assume their role of pollinator.
Here’s some more fun facts about these miraculous creatures from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
WHAT IS A HUMMINGBIRD’S SIZE?
These diminutive birds weigh only about 4 grams — or .141 ounce! That’s tiny! For comparison, a U.S. penny weighs 2.5 grams. The egg of a hummingbird weighs just 0.4 gram to 2.4 grams. A newly hatched bird is just 0.62 gram. However, when it’s time to migrate, hummers pack on the grams for the long trip — sometimes doubling their weight.
They are among the smallest birds, too, with most species measuring 3 to 5 inches long. The smallest bird, the bee hummingbird, is only 2 inches long — and weighs less than 2 grams.
HOW FAST DO HUMMINGBIRDS BEAT THEIR WINGS?
Hummingbirds, with their iridescent colors and fairly short wings, beat their wings as fast as 80 times per second! They do NOT flap their wings — they rotate them in a figure 8, which makes it even more remarkable! In fact, their name comes from the fact that they move their wings so fast that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can hover, stop instantly, and fly in different directions (even upside down) with exquisite control.
HOW FAST IS A HUMMINGBIRD’S HEART RATE?
Hummingbirds have a very high metabolic rate, with heart rate of 1,260 beats per minute and breaths of 250 times per minute.
The long flights and wing-beating can make a hummingbird weary. As often as every 15 minutes, they look for a place to rest on trees and shrubs with small leaves. Particular plants include birch trees, butterfly bushes, and honey locusts. Don’t worry if you do not have these plants in your yard — your hummingbird might also rest on your feeder’s hanger.
WHAT’S A HUMMINGBIRD’S LIFE SPAN?
The life expectancy of a hummingbird is from 3 to 6 years. The oldest surviving hummingbird was 9 years old. Females outlive males by several years, probably due to the males’ high energy costs of defending territories and the long spring and fall migrations.
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