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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
ONE OF LIFE'S SIMPLE PLEASURES: HUMMINGBIRDS
Last weekend, my sister, Donna, found this little fella slumped over on a plant stand in her underground garage. Surprised that it was a hummingbird, she took it up to her patio, where she saw that it was alive . . . just barely. Cupping it tenderly in her hand, she held it up to the hummingbird feeder on her patio, pointing its beak into the little yellow flower. Almost at once, its mouth opened with a tiny tongue darting in and out to drink the nectar. It struggled to open its eyes and gulp down more liquid.
Still holding it in her palm, she snapped a couple of pictures, marveling that it sat there contently. A few more trips to the feeder, then it gave a little shudder, ruffled its wings and off it went.
Thanks, Donna, for sharing your pics and the amazing story of the little hummingbird you rescued.
Just in case you’re interested, here are some fast facts about hummingbirds:
• These tiniest of birds are native to the Americas.
• They can hover in mid-air by flapping their wings 12 – 90 times per second.
• They are the only birds that can fly backwards.
• They can fly more than 34 mph.
• They feed on plant nectar and are important flower pollinators.
• They also feed on insects and spiders to balance their sugar diet with protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
• Unlike other birds, hummingbirds drink by using protrusible grooved or trough-like tongues.
• They consume up to five times their body weight in nectar each day.
• They have the highest metabolism of all animals. Can only store enough energy to survive overnight, so they are only hours away from starving to death at any given moment.
• Their heart rates can reach 1,260 beats per minute, but they enter a hibernation-like state (torpor) at night, reducing the need for food.
• Average life span of 3 to 4 years, but one tagged hummingbird lived at least 12 years.
• They are found only in the Americas, from southern Alaska to the tip of South America.
• The typical cup-shaped nest is built by the female who lays two white eggs. Males do not participate in nest building or feeding the young (chicks).
• There are between 325 and 340 species of hummingbirds, half of which can be found in Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador.
• Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli is often depicted as a hummingbird.
• Trinidad and Tobago is known as “the land of the hummingbird” and bears a hummingbird on that nation’s coat of arms, one-cent coin, and its national airline, Caribbean Air.
Hummingbirds are one of my favorite summer delights, and I must admit, I’ve spent many an evening enjoying their visits to our patio feeders. Here’s to simple pleasures and summertime joys!