How big are hummingbirds?
A. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are 3 - 3.75 inches long with a wingspan
of 4 - 4.75 inches. Rufous hummingbirds are 3.5 - 4 inches long with
a wingspan of 4.25 inches.
Q. How much do hummers weigh?
A. Male ruby-throats weigh 2.4 - 3.6 g, females 2.8 - 4.5 g. Male rufous
hummers average 3.2 g, females 3.4 g. You could mail nine or ten hummingbirds
with a single stamp, says hummingbird expert Laura Erickson! A hummingbird weighs about the same as a U.S. penny.
Why are females larger than males?
are 15-20% larger. They need to be a tiny bit bigger to be able to produce eggs, to afford to
share their body heat with the eggs while incubating, and to be able to
share their food when feeding nestlings. Male
hummingbirds are the tiniest warm-blooded animals on the planet.
Q. Why are they called hummingbirds?
A. That's an easy one! Their wings beat so fast (in normal flight about 75
beats per second, and during courtship flights both ruby-throated and
rufous hummingbird wings can beat 200 times per second!) that they make
a humming sound.
What do hummingbirds sound like?
A. Besides the humming of their wings, hummingbirds make chittering,
How fast do hummers fly?
A. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been clocked in a wind tunnel flying up
to 27 m.p.h. One kept up with an automobile going 45 m.p.h.; another kept
up with a car going 55 - 60 m.p.h.
How fast is a hummingbird's heartbeat?
A. The hummingbird's heart beats about 250 times per minute -- that's 4 times per second. They breathe at the same rate.
Q. How does hovering help a hummingbird?
A. It can
hover long enough to suck out all the nectar it needs from a flower.
How smart are hummingbirds?
A. Hummingbirds are very intelligent, and are able to remember places and
individual people from one year to the next.
How do hummingbirds communicate?
communicate with each other primarily by chittering and other vocalizations,
and by flying toward one another aggressively, to chase each other away.
do hummers have such brilliant iridescent throat feathers?
A. It's only
male hummers that have the brilliant iridescent throat feathers. They
use these to display to one another. Females find it attractive, and other
males are repelled. Male hummers are VERY feisty and territorial and constantly
bickering with one another, and the red feathers are part of this territorial
display. So they have two functions-attracting a female and defending
Q. What causes a hummer's colors to have a metallic
brilliant, iridescent colors of hummingbird plumage are caused by the
refraction of incident light by the structures of certain feathers. Like
any diffraction grating or prism, these structures split light into its
component colors, and only certain frequencies are refracted back to your
eyes. The apparent color of any particular part of a feather depends upon
the distance between the microscopic ridges in its gridlike structure.
The resulting colors are much more vivid and iridescent than those of
birds with only pigmented feathers. Not all hummer colors are due to feather
structure, however; the duller, rusty browns of Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds
come from pigmentation. Iridescent hummingbird colors actually result
from a combination of refraction and pigmentation, since the diffraction
structures themselves are made of melanin, a pigment.
Q. Why are some hummingbirds all or partly white?
A. A very few hummingbirds are true or partial albinos. That means
their feathers (and sometimes their whole bodies) have no pigment.
What do hummingbirds look like when they're flying?
never stop beating their wings, and with their tiny size can look like
large bumblebees in the air. They fly in a direct path unless they are
making a male display flight. Displaying male ruby-throats fly in a wide
arc--about 180 degrees, looking like a half-circle--swinging back and
forth as if suspended at the end of a long wire. Their wings make a loud
buzz at the bottom of the arc. Displaying rufous hummers trace a steep
U, climbing high, diving steeply, and making whining and popping sounds
at the bottom of the dive. Females sometimes join them.
What is unusual about a hummingbird's flying?
A. They can
fly backwards and upside down and to hover. Few other birds can do any
of these things, and none as successfully as the hummingbird.
Q. How can hummingbirds hover in one place?
A. When a
bird flaps its wing forward it creates forces called 'lift' and 'thrust',
which move the bird up and forward. Hummingbirds can rotate their wings
backward, which creates downward 'lift' and backward 'thrust'. By alternating
flapping their wings forward and backward, the up and down forces and
forward and back forces cancel each other out, so the hummingbird hovers
in one place.
are ruby-throats and rufous hummer different from and similar to other
A. These two species have wider ranges than other North American species,
the ruby-throat predominating in the eastern half of the continent, the
rufous in the western half. They're smaller than many hummingbirds, though
bigger than the tiniest.
How is a hummingbird's body adapted to its lifestyle and habitat?
A. The muscle fibers in hummingbird pectoral muscles are 100% of the
red type (the opposite of the kind of muscle fibers in "white meat,"
in chicken and turkey pectoral muscle). This enables hummingbirds to keep
a rich supply of blood and oxygen flowing into their muscles as they fly,
so they don't tire even with their rapid wing rate. Their beaks are designed
to probe into many species of small flowers and to snap up tiny flying
insects; their tongue is fringed with tiny hairs and curls into a "double
straw" shape in the back, allowing them to "wick up" nectar.
Q. I have never seen a Ruby-throated hummingbird on the ground. Do they ever land and if they do, can they wak around?
A. They do land on the ground occasionally, but aren't capable of walking because their legs and feet are not very strong, and their legs aren't in the best location relative to their center of gravity. They can hop a little, assisted by their wings.
Q. How do a hummer's senses compare with a human's?
vision is much more discriminating than ours--they can see things
at a farther distance, and are able to see a wider spectrum of colors
than we can, into the ultraviolet range. They are especially attracted
to the color red. A hummer reacts to sights much more quickly than we
can. A hummingbird's hearing is more finely tuned than ours. It
can hear higher-pitched sounds than we can, and can hear tiny differences
in sound quality that our ears just simply can't detect. It's sense
of touch is not as discriminating as ours in some ways, though it
can construct a nest with amazing accuracy relying partly on this sense.
Hummers can probably not taste as many flavors as we can, though
they apparently notice exactly how sweet necar is, and prefer it very
sweet. They probably cannot smell as many odors.
What is the Ruby-throated's scientific name? How is it
A. Its scientific
name is a combination of the genus and species names, or Archilochus
Ruby-throated Hummingbird belongs to:
- Genus Archilochus (from Greek to mean "chief among birds")
- Species colubris (which means "snake" in Latin--Linnaeus probably
made a spelling error when he named it. The French colibre means
What is the Rufous Hummingbird's scientific name and how is it classified?
A. Its scientific
name is a combination of the genus and species names, or Selasphorus
rufus. The Rufous Hummingbird belongs to:
- Genus Selasphorus (from Greek for "light carrying")
- Species rufus (which means "reddish" in Latin)