How To Identify Hummingbirds
It is an interesting fact that until America was discovered, no one had seen a hummingbird. Learn all about these facinating birds.
It is an interesting fact that until America was discovered, no one had seen a hummingbird or anything remotely resembling one. These small perching birds of the New World are mostly of species and subspecies native to Central and South America. Moving at astonishing speeds the hummingbird will dart in front of you with its wings moving at the rate of 75 beats per second, hover for a moment, and then just as quickly be gone leaving you with a blurred image of bright colors.
The Ruby Throated hummingbird is the only one seen in the east. The male has a red throat and a cleft tail. The female and chicks have nearly white stomachs with buff flanks. The heads, back and wings are green. Both sexes have green tails but the females is blunt with black and white spots. This species has a medium length straight bill. This summer visitor is about 3 3/4 inches long. The Rufous hummingbird has a rusty red color added to its tail feathers and is usually found in the northwest. It has a green crown and wings with rufous flanks and white stomachs. The female sports a spotted throat, as well as black and white tail edgings. Less common species that numbers over six hundred and fifty hummingbirds includes the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Black chinned Hummingbird and the Black and white Warbler to name a few. The Giant hummer of the Andes is 8 1\2 inches long and is the largest of the species. The smallest of the species is the Helena's Hummingbird of Cuba at only 2 1\2 inches long.
Hummingbirds have a brilliant plumage with a metallic sheen and long, slender, sometimes curved bills. In seeking insects and nectar of flowers they carry on cross pollination. Hummingbirds fly at speeds of up to 55 miles per hours. Their feats are possible because of their immense wing muscles. In flight, the Hummingbird has the most controlled ability of any other bird. When backing away from an object or flower this tiny bird stands on air with its tail down with wings beating horizontally. This forward wing stroke forces the air away from its breast which drives it backward, then when the return stroke occurs the wing is rotated at the shoulder joint to enable the upper surface to strike the air driving it downward. This balances the pull of gravity on the Hummingbird's tiny body.
When mating the male hummingbird will shoot back and forth before the female as she watches. Mating is done swiftly, as is the egg laying process. Nest are perfectly camouflaged, usually with lichens, and are in most cases no larger than a quarter on the outside. The inside of the nest is even smaller, usually no larger than a dime. The eggs of the smaller hummingbirds are white and about the size of a pea. The female will usually lay two eggs. When these hatch the chicks are no larger than a fingernail and are fed every minute or two in the beginning.
It is believed that hummingbirds prefer the color red, but in reality what is important to the tiny visitor is the shape of the flower and production of abundant nectar. To attract hummingbird it is wise to plant such nectar bearing tubular flowers as honeysuckle, scarlet runner beans, trumpet vines, salvias, fuschias, columbines and morning glories.