‘Tis the season for Hummingbirds!

Do they ever really leave us though?

Hummingbirds are seen throughout the year in the Arizona Central Highlands. This is because our ecoregion is a main hub along their migration paths. Hummingbirds migrate down to Mexico and South America for the winter months. It is important not to take down your hummingbird feeders too early because those few late migrators will stop by for a bit of food before continuing on their long journey south. A hummingbird remembers where each feeder and feeding area is along their migration route and will return to the same spot year after year.

Hummingbird in mid flight

Diet

Hummingbirds have a split tongue that is super long. Their split tongue allows them to lap the nectar from flowers or feeders. It’s very similar to how cats lap water. Hummingbirds can lap nectar 15 times per second! Hummingbirds do not have a sense of smell. Instead, they look to the colors of flowers and feeders – red, yellow, orange, pink, and blue are their favorites.

Hummingbird drinking nectar from a pink flower

Did you know 85% of a hummingbird’s diet consists of insects? This may be surprising considering how much they love drinking nectar!

Mating and Nesting

During the Spring months, hummingbirds begin to look for mates. Males attract females by performing an acrobatic show flying very high (showing her how high he can fly) and then diving toward the ground barely pulling to a stop before impacting the surface (showing her how fast he can stop). While they do this, the males sing a specific song to the female, almost like saying, “Hey, look at me.” The female will then decide if his performance was worthy enough.

Two Anna's Hummingbird eggs in a nest

Unlike other bird species, males leave the females before they lay eggs making the female a single bird mom. They lay 2 eggs at a time and it takes 14-19 days to incubate. Babies are born with their eyes shut and barely any downy feathers. The picture above is an Anna’s Hummingbird nest on the HCNH grounds.

All that color

Male hummingbirds sport all the beautiful colors while the females sport earth tones. The throat of a male hummingbird is vibrant but the feathers themselves aren’t that brilliant color. The way the feathers are arranged causes them to be iridescent in the light.

Hummingbird with a red throat

Other Wonder Facts About Hummingbirds:

  • There are 400 species of hummingbirds.
  • Hummingbirds exist in North and South America, and Mexico.
  • They flap their wings 500 times per second and are the only bird species that can fly in place forward and backward.
  • When perusing between flowers and feeders, hummingbirds fly 20mph but when they are evading a predator they can reach speeds up to 50mph!

Wonder, Explore, Discover!

Check out our many nature classes at highlandscenter.org/adult-programs

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