Hummingbird In Paradise
This hummingbird was really enjoying lunch and seemed oblivious to the fact that I was watching. Photo take on a recent visit to Arizona.
Hummingbirds are birds that comprise the family Trochilidae. They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5�13 cm (3�5 in) range. Indeed, the smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm Bee Hummingbird. They hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12�80 times per second (depending on the species). They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which sometimes sounds like bees or other insects. To conserve energy while they sleep or when food is scarce, they have the ability to go into a hibernation-like state (torpor) where their metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of its normal rate. When the nights get colder, their body temperature can drop significantly and thus slow down their heart and breathing rate, thus burning much less energy overnight. As the day heats back up, the hummingbird's body temperature will come back up and they resume their normal activity.  They are also the only group of birds with the ability to fly backward. They can fly at speeds exceeding 15 m/s (54 km/h; 34 mph). Individuals from some species of hummingbirds weigh less than a penny.
Hummingbirds drink nectar, a sweet liquid inside certain flowers. Like bees, they are able to assess the amount of sugar in the nectar they eat; they reject flower types that produce nectar that is less than 10% sugar and prefer those whose sugar content is stronger. Nectar is a poor source of nutrients, so hummingbirds meet their needs for protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. by preying on insects and spiders.
Hummingbirds do not spend all day flying, as the energy cost would be prohibitive; the majority of their activity consists simply of sitting or perching. Hummingbirds feed in many small meals, consuming many small invertebrates and up to twelve times their own body weight in nectar each day. They spend an average of 10�15% of their time feeding and 75�80% sitting and digesting.
Hummingbirds are typically very territorial when it comes to food; once a hummingbird finds a consistent source of food such as an artificial feeder, it will fight off other hummingbirds to maintain complete dominance over the food source.
April 9th, 2013
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