Found only in North America and South America, the humming bird is the second largest family of birds with 343 species. The largest number of hummingbirds of any country is found in northwestern South America. With 163 different species the country of Ecuador holds that title. Hummingbirds are the smallest of all birds, and also are the smallest animal to have a backbone.
When the birds fly, the force of their wings make a humming noise. Rotating its wings in a circle, hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, up, down, sideways and stand still in mid-air. There are 16 species of hummingbirds in the United States:
- ruby-throated Archilochus colubris
- black-chinned Archilochus alexandri
- Anna's Calypete anna
- rufous Selasphorus rufus
- berylline Amazilia beryllina
- buff-bellied Amazilia yucatenensis
- lucifer Calothorax lucifer
- violet-crowned Amazilia violiceps
- Allen's Selasphorus sasin
- white-eared Hylocharis leucotis
- magnificant (Rivoli) Eugenes fulgens
- blue-throated Lampornis clemenciae
- Costa's Calypte costae
- calliope Stellula calliope
- broad-billed Cynanthus latirostris
- broad-tailed Selasphorus platycercus
Nesting regularly east of the Mississippi River in North America, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common bird we see. With a 7-9 cm length and 8-11 cm wingspan, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird weighs only 2-6 g. Adult birds boast a beautiful color of metallic green above and grayish white below. Wings are near black. Their bills are long, straight and very slender. Adult males have a ruby-red throat patch that appear black in some lighting with a dark forked tail. Females have rounded tails with white tips with no throat patch, although at times she may have a light or whitish throat patch. Males are usually smaller than females with their beaks being shorter. The ruby-throated hummingbirds wing beat when hovering is 55 times per second. When moving forward the wing speed is 75 times per second and backwards 61 times per second.
The reproduction of the hummingbird consists of the male courting the female that has entered his territory by performing courtship displays. The "dive display" as it is referred, begins when the male rises 8 to 10 feet above and 5 to 6 feet to each side of the female. The male hummingbird starts to fly in a very rapid horizontal arc less than 0.5 m in front of the female. During this display the wings of the male may beat up to 200 times per second. The female may give a call and a laid back position if interested, with her wings dropped and feathers cocked.
Before mating, the male and female will face each other ascending and descending roughly 10 feet and dropping to the ground to mate. The female uses spider webs to build her nest. Linches hide the outside, while dandelion, cattail, or thistle down, line the inside. The female stretches the nest using her body. Pea-sized eggs, white in color, are laid two or three days apart. Duration of the nestling phase vary from 14 to 31 days. The eggs are roughly 12.9 by 8.5 millimeters in size and will produce 2, and occasionally 3 broods.
Grown throughout the United States and worldwide are plants that attract the hummingbird. These plants include annual phlox, garden balsam, orange jewelweed, garden nasturtium, and petunia. Hummingbirds are mostly attracted to orange, pink, or red flowers. Tubular shape plants are also a preference, annual phlox and orange jewelweed are native to North America. Hummingbirds drink a sweet liquid inside a flower known as nectar. To get enough protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals in their diet they will also prey on insects and spiders. Although hummingbirds drink nectar from hummingbird feeders, the color dye is actually not good for the bird. To make a safe nectar for the hummingbird, fill a feeder with sugar-water to attract your friend. Mix 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water. Boil the mixture 3 or 4 minutes and let it cool. It is not necessary to fill your feeder all the way up. Store any leftover nectar in the refrigerator up to 7 days. Clean your feeder throughly ever 3 - 4 days.
To survive, the hummingbird has to eat constantly. The average life span for a Ruby-throated hummingbird is 3 - 5 years. The oldest known Ruby-throated hummingbird was 9 years, 1 month.