The Hummingbird

It is hard to believe that birds are descended from dinosaurs especially the tiny hummingbird . However, more and more scientists are beginning to believe that it is true.

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world and only found in the Western Hemisphere from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. They were called joyas voladores, flying jewels, by the early Spanish explorers. The number of estimated different kinds ranges from about 300-343. Body weights range from 2 to 20 grams. For example, the bee hummingbird which is found in Cuba weighs less than two grams and measures two inches from bill to tail.

These iridescent flying jewels are brightly coloured with wings that beat very fast-up to 80 beats per second. This enables them to hover, fly backwards, sideways and up and down and for short periods of time even fly upside down. Gorgeous colour with muscle they will visit several hundred flowers a day in their search for nectar and insects. They will also eat insects from spider webs.They have metallic looking feathers which are often quite brilliant in colour and long, slender beaks which enable them to feed on nectar from flowers and insects inside them. Hummingbirds are typically solitary birds which bond with another bird for only as long as it takes to mate. They are related to the swifts.

Despite their tiny size they can fly up to 25-30 mph and dive at 60 mph. Some are migratory and travel up to 2000 miles between their summer home in Canada and their winter home in central America. They can live for up to a decade in the wild.

They are the only bird species that has an insect predator-the preying mantis feeds upon the smallest.
Anna s Hummingbird Photo Copyright Richard Fray They are fiercely territorial and aggressive and will attack larger rival hummingbirds, larger birds, mammals and even humans. It has been suggested that the Aztecs identified one of their war gods, Huitzilopochtli, with the hummingbird because of this ferocity. A current belief about hummingbirds among certain Indians of Mexico is that if a man dries and powders the meat of a hummingbird and then places it in a woman’s drink she will only have eyes for that man. One Indian claimed to have got six wives in that way.

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