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25 Fun Facts About Hummingbirds

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All birds are fascinating creatures, but there are many facts about hummingbirds that make them astonishing to even experienced birders. From physiological facts to lifestyle facts to distribution facts, hummingbirds are some of the most interesting of the nearly 10,000 bird species in the world.

  1. There are more than 325 hummingbird species in the world. Only 8 species regularly breed in the United States, though up to two dozen species may visit the country.

  2. A hummingbird’s brilliant throat color is not caused by feather pigmentation, but rather by iridescence in the arrangement of the feathers and the influence of light level, moisture and other factors.

  3. Hummingbirds cannot walk or hop, though their feet can be used to scoot sideways while they are perched.

  4. The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird species in North America and measures just 3 inches long. The bee hummingbird is the smallest species and measures 2.25 inches long.

  5. Hummingbirds have 1,000-1,500 feathers, the fewest number of feathers of any bird species in the world.

  6. The average ruby-throated hummingbird weighs 3 grams. In comparison, a nickel weighs 4.5 grams.

  7. From 25-30 percent of a hummingbird’s weight is in its pectoral muscles, the muscles principally responsible for flight.

  8. A hummingbird’s maximum forward flight speed is 30 miles per hour, though the birds can reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive.

  9. Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all birds. They measure less than 1/2 inch long but may represent as much as 10 percent of the mother’s weight at the time the eggs are laid.

  10. A hummingbird must consume approximately 1/2 of its weight in sugar daily, and the average hummingbird feeds 5-8 times per hour.

  11. A hummingbird’s wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second depending on the direction of flight and air conditions.

  12. An average hummingbird’s heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute.

  13. At rest, a hummingbird takes an average of 250 breaths per minute.

  14. The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any hummingbird species with a distance of more than 3,000 miles from the bird’s nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to its winter habitat in Mexico.

  15. The ruby-throated hummingbird flies 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both its spring and fall migrations.

  16. Depending on the species, habitat conditions, predators and other factors, the average lifespan of a wild hummingbird is 3-12 years.

  17. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but have very keen eyesight.

  18. Hummingbirds do not suck nectar through their long bills, they lick it with fringed, forked tongues.

  19. A hummingbird can lick 10-15 times per second while feeding.

  20. Hummingbirds digest natural sucrose in 20 minutes with 97 percent efficiency for converting the sugar into energy.

  21. Many hummingbird species, including Anna’s, black-chinned, Allen’s, Costa’s, rufous, calliope and broad-tailed hummingbirds, can breed together to create hybrid species, one fact that makes identifying hummingbirds very challenging.

  22. The peak fall migration period for hummingbirds is from mid-July through August or early September, depending on the route.

  23. Despite their small size, hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive bird species and will regularly attack jays, crows and hawks that infringe on their territory.

  24. The bill of the aptly named sword-billed hummingbird, found in the Andes Mountains, can reach up to 4 inches long.

  25. Hummingbirds are native species of the New World and are not found outside of the Western Hemisphere.
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