(Printed to fit A3)
Yes, there really are hummingbirds here…
I was actually surprised to see hummingbirds in our yard when we first moved to Las Vegas, I thought they were located more in the Midwest and East Coast… but I was happy to learn that they are all over the United States! The most common hummingbird found here in southern Nevada is the Black Chinned Hummingbird.
There are four main species found in Las Vegas, they are the Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, the Black Chinned Hummingbird and the Broad Tailed Hummingbird. Two of these, the Anna’s and Costa’s are here year round, the other two are summer visitors.
Now after seeing pictures of hummingbirds, I decided that the ones we saw in our backyard hummingbird feeder were the Broad Tailed hummingbirds, their pictures looked the most similar to the ones we saw.
Hummingbirds are absolutely fascinating birds to watch! We kept seeing them because we have two bushes with bright red flowers in our yard. After doing some research, I found out that hummingbirds are most attracted to bright red, pink and orange flowers. They seemed to love our flowers, so we decided to put a hummingbird feeder out back.
It has been fascinating watching them. I found out that hummingbirds range in size from 3 to 5 inches. I also discovered that hummingbirds flap their wings an amazing average of 53 times per second! The largest hummingbirds will flap them 10 to 15 times per second, but the smaller ones will average 53 times, the very smallest ones can even flap their wings an astounding 80 times per second! You probably would have trouble telling that just by looking at them. I would think it would be too fast for our eyes to even see.
When they flap their wings, they make a “figure 8” shape, this helps provide lift in both directions so they can appear to stop in midair to sip nectar. Their wings appear to be “iridescent” because of a refraction of light that happens when the light hits their wings. Certain feathers will “split” the light into component colors, and only certain colors are refracted back to us as we watch them… giving them an iridescent look when viewed by our eyes.
Hummingbirds have VERY fast heartbeats, the fastest being recorded from a Blue Throated hummingbird, an amazing 1,260 beats per minute! They also have the highest metabolism of all animals. When they feed, they have many small meals, and can eat up to 12 times their body weight in nectar per day! Amazingly, only about 10 to 15% of their time is spent eating, and about 75 to 80% of their time is spent sitting and digesting food. Nectar is not a great source of nutrients, so they supplement this by also eating insects and spiders.
Altogether, there are about 356 species of hummingbirds. Early European settlers thought that they were a cross between insects and birds. It was found that Columbus even wrote of seeing hummingbirds. A couple of myths persisted years ago about hummingbirds, because they weren’t seen much during the winter months, it was believed that hummingbirds in the Autumn would stick their long beaks into tree trunks and die, then they were “resurrected” in the Spring. Another persistent myth was that they would migrate by “riding” on the backs of geese or swans. Neither of these myths are true, but they were interesting, and made for some good tales.
Hummingbirds mate and build their nests in the Spring, and usually a nest will only be about the size of 1/2 of an English walnut shell! The outer nest is covered with moss and plant fibers, the inside is made from plant “down” and spider webs. Each nest will usually have just two small, white eggs in it, and each egg is only a little less than 1/2 inch long! Those are some pretty tiny eggs! After they hatch, it is an amazing site to see “Mother” come with food and see the two little heads pop up to eat!
Mother hummingbird regurgitates nectar and half digested insects to feed her babies, then her throat swells and she “pumps” her beak in an action similar to a sewing needle. Generally, males do not help to build nests or care for young, but there have been some rare reports of males helping to incubate eggs.
Hummingbirds will not re-use a nest, but occasionally will build a brand new nest right on top of an old, used nest.
Hummingbirds really are fascinating, beautiful birds and a lot of fun to watch! Putting a feeder in your yard is one great way to get an “up close” look at them. Just be sure to keep the feeder clean and fresh nectar in it (once a week cleaning out and refilling is usually recommended.)
Another way to attract hummingbirds to your yard is to have an abundance of bright red, pink or orange flowers. You will be rewarded with one of the greatest sights nature has to offer us, the beautiful hummingbird!
Summer Story by Mary Oliver
When the hummingbird
sinks its face
into the trumpet vine,
into the funnels
of the blossoms
and the tongue
I am scorched
to realize once again
how many small, available things
are in this world
pieces of gold
that nobody owns
or could but even
for a hillside of money——-
that just float
in the world,
or drift over the fields,
or into the gardens,
and into the tents of the vines,
and now here I am
spending my time,
as the saying goes,
watching until the watching turns into feeling,
so that I feel I am myself
a small bird with a terrible hunger,
with a thin beak probing and dipping
and a heart that races so fast
it is only a heart beat ahead of breaking———
and I am the hunger and the assuagement,
and also I am the leaves and the blossoms,
and, like them, I am full of delight, and shaking.