In this unit study, we will learn about hummingbirds and about their characteristics. Many people attract these small birds to their backyards because they are so unique.
Hummingbirds are fun to watch, especially while they eat. People plant specific flowers and place hummingbird feeders in their yards to attract these birds in order to watch them for entertainment.
What is a Hummingbird and What Do They Look Like?
Hummingbirds are small wild birds. There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, and there’s a lot of variation between the species. Hummingbirds have a distinct physical appearance. They are so named because they make a humming noise when they fly because their wings move so quickly.
Hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere. They are found as far north as Northern Canada and Alaska and as far south as South America. South America and Central American have more species than North America, and you’ll only find a few species in North America.
The birds in Central America and South America stay there all year, but the birds in North America migrate south during the winter.
Hummingbirds look like other backyard birds. They have a stubby body shape with long wings. They also have a narrow and long bill. Their bill is used as sort of a tube for the hummingbird to get nectar deeper in flowers and feeders.
These birds have long narrow wings that are tapered at the end. This helps the bird be more agile when flying. However, the uniqueness of these birds is in its wing construction rather than the appearance. The elbow and shoulder joints are close to the bird’s body. This allows each wing to tilt and pivot, which allows the bird to hover and change directions while flying.
Hummingbirds have very small feet and legs, and they are unable to walk. They can hop sideways, but they primarily move around by flying. Even if they have to move just a few inches, they will often fly instead of hopping.
Hummingbirds have a unique plumage because it is iridescent. Females tend to be plain, but many species have iridescent colors. Males are brightly colored on the throat.
Why Are These Birds So Important to Us?
Hummingbirds are fun to watch, but they are also important birds for humans. Hummingbirds have adapted and evolved to be excellent pollinators. They use their long bills and tongues shaped like tubes to get nectar from flowers. They use this nectar for food for energy.
As they fly from one plant to another, they carry pollen to help pollinate plants. They help pollinate native species of plants in gardens and in the wild, such as in parks.
How Hummingbirds are different from other birds
Hummingbirds have many characteristics that set them apart from other birds. They are small in size but can fly up to 50 miles per hour while beating their wings about sixty times per second. These amazing birds grow very rapidly; they find a mate and lay eggs after only one year of life. The male will help the female keep the nest clean and protect her while she lays her eggs.
Hummingbirds are found mostly in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. They can migrate to northern states during the winter season, but they do not live there permanently.
During the breeding season, a male hummingbird will establish its territory around three square miles. The female bird lays two eggs; the males caring for the young in the first year. Both the male and female will look after the babies until they are ready to mate.
What is Hummingbird Molt?
Hummingbird molt is a key time in their life cycle because they lose all of their feathers in one fell swoop. All hummingbirds molt at some point (with the exception of the female Anna’s hummingbird).
As with most new feathers, hummingbirds molt their feathers to make room for the new feathers that are coming in. This time is also crucial because it can be dangerous for a bird if they don’t have enough of certain types of feather or in some cases too many.
Why Do Hummingbirds Molt?
Hummingbird molt is the process of replacing old feathers with new ones. Old feathers are always being lost in small amounts, but there will come a time when they need to jumpstart the whole process and replace all their out-of-date feathers at once.
This time is known as hummingbird molting or hummingbird feather replacement. Hummingbirds must molt because their feathers are made of keratin, which can break down over time and become weak or fall out completely. This is especially important in areas where there are climatic changes since it is harder to find warmth when a bird’s feathers are compromised and they need to have all new feathers before migrating.
Another reason that a hummingbird molt is important in their life cycle is because of the replacement of an old feather with a newer one, it will push more blood into the growing feather follicle and helps to keep the bird strong and healthy.
Did you know… that during a molting period (or any time a hummingbird loses all of its feathers at once), a new feather will push out of the skin in just two days? This is because a hummingbird can grow one to three thousand new feathers during this time!
While there are various factors that lead to when a bird will have their molting period, it depends on how often they lose feathers or how old they are. It is also possible to see both male and female birds molting at the same time since it doesn’t have too much effect on their reproductive cycle.
Female hummingbirds molt twice as often as males, but this is not entirely relevant to reproduction because the only real difference between a male’s feather and a female’s feather is the coloring. Both males and females need to have strong feathers so that they can fly and catch insects with their beaks, but males also have stronger beaks for territorial purposes.
How Big Are Hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds are small birds. They are among the smallest birds in the world, although some species of hummingbirds are larger. However, as a species, they are the smallest birds. Depending on the species, hummingbirds measure between 3 and 5 inches (7.5 to 13 cm) long.
The smallest hummingbirds weigh about 0.07 ounces (2 grams), and the largest hummingbirds weigh between 0.6 to 0.8 ounces (18 to 24 grams).
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds have a high metabolism. In fact, they have the highest metabolism of any flying bird species. They need a lot of energy for their wing speed and fast heart rate. They do conserve energy at night when they enter a sort of state of rest.
Hummingbirds eat mostly nectar because it’s high in sugar. However, they will also eat small bugs like spiders or gnats. Some birds will eat fruit, but this is mostly to get the fruit juice, and they typically don’t eat the flesh of the fruit. Hummingbirds do not eat any seeds. They will not eat suet, bread, or food scraps.
How Can We Help Hummingbirds Thrive in Our Gardens?
You can help hummingbirds thrive in your backyard or garden by using a hummingbird feeder or by planting plants that attract hummingbirds. Here are some things you can do to attract hummingbirds to your yard:
- Have a water source. Hummingbirds need water, and they won’t want to leave to find it.
- Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. Plant red flowers and use red bird feeders.
- Hummingbirds like areas with trees or tall bushes that they can use as perches.
- Use an insect feeder so the birds have protein.
- Hang several hummingbird feeders in your yard to attract more birds.
- Hummingbirds create territories, so hang the feeders spread apart.
- Don’t use red food coloring if you make your own hummingbird nectar.
- Change the nectar often so it doesn’t get mold or bacteria growth.
- Use hummingbird feeders with an ant moat and that are bee resistant.
We have a recipe for Hummingbird Nectar for a Hummingbird Feeder in our packet for you!
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10 pages full of fun activities to learn more about these amazing creatures and even a recipe to help feed them!
Types of Hummingbirds
The following are types of hummingbirds that are common in North America:
- Green-breasted Mango
- Green-Breasted Mango Hummingbird
- Green Violet-Ear Hummingbird
- Lucifer Hummingbird
- Rivoli’s Hummingbird
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Interesting Hummingbird Facts You May Not Know
- Hummingbirds are popular birds, but 34 species are on the endangered species list.
- Hummingbirds have a fourth cone in their eyes, so they can see colors that humans can not see.
- Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of any bird in the world. Some hummingbird eggs are the size of peas.
- Hummingbirds eat about every 15 minutes. They visit between one thousand and two thousand flowers every day.
- They can fly faster than a car! Hummingbirds can fly between 30 and 45 mph.
- Hummingbirds are not social birds. They will get territorial and only look out for themselves.
- A hummingbird’s wings can beat up to 70 times per second while flying and more than 200 times per second when they are diving.
- Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, and upside down. They are also the only vertebrates that can hover.
- Their hearts beat up to 1, 260 beats per minute! However, their heart rate drops to 50 to 180 beats per minute at night.
To wrap it all up, a hummingbird is an amazing creature. Just because it is small in size does not mean that it does not have an incredible effect on our environment.