We all know that a hummingbird – the smallest bird in the world, their mass is only 1.6-1.8 gr (true, not all hummingbirds have such tiny dimensions, among them there are larger birds as well. For example, the length of the body of giant hummingbird – about 20 inches.) However, few know that among these funny little birds are found unique, trapped in the Guinness Book of Records, not only because of their small size. But before I elaborate on the "record" let’s get acquainted with the hummingbirds.
From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego
These birds inhabit the plains, mountains and even desert. Some species have a wide range, while others are extended to a small area, sometimes only one at the top of the mountain. Usually this is due to the presence of host plants, the size and shape of the flowers which is adapted to the bird’s beak.
Hummingbirds are common in the western hemisphere, and penetrate into the cold area in the north and south of both continents of America. But the greatest number lives in the Amazon basin. Quite a few species of hummingbirds live in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. In the very south of South America and Tierra del Fuego there is only one kind of these birds. Also the same species live in eastern North America, north to Labrador, and in western North America from Mexico to Alaska (ocher hummingbirds).
Life in Flight
Hummingbirds eat a lot, consuming a daily feed of the mass that approximately 2 times greater than they are weighing themselves. Only in this way they can support enhanced metabolism and constant body temperature. Main food of these birds are small insects and flower nectar. It is for the nectar their beak, which is very long and thin, and some representatives of this suborder, such as a sword-beaked hummingbird has a beak much longer than its owner. Thus, this species of hummingbirds is also the most long-beaked bird in the world. Typically, the beak straight, but sometimes it is slightly bent downwards.
Tongue of hummingbird also is unique. It is a long, thin tube with a fringe on the end. Flying into a flower and stoping in front of it in the air, hummingbird put the beak into flower, and without opening it up only slightly raises the mandible, and puts out a folded tube of a tongue. Then by the strong swallowing movements nectar is pumped into the mouth, enters the esophagus and further, bypassing the stomach flows into the duodenum. If, however, there are small insets in the nectar, they fall into the stomach.
In addition to nectar, hummingbirds collect spiders and insects from leaves and branches, just hovering in front of them, and sometimes they catch their food on the fly. Hummingbirds feed their young by pumping the nectar into their beak, while not sitting on the edge of the nest, and hanging in the air.
Tail of hummingbird can have very different shapes and lengths. Sometimes it is fairly short with a straight end, and sometimes cut like scissors disclosed. During the flight, a hummingbird wings do not flap, but, rather, twist. They move their wings very quickly, so that the observer sees only the ambient light cloud and and a faint noise of small wings. The smaller the hummingbirds, the number of strokes more. Weighing about 2 grams of red hummingbird makes 50-51 beats per second, which weighs 6 grams tailed hummingbird – 21-23 stroke. During the mating flight, the number of strokes in some species of hummingbirds can be increased to 100 per second. The plumage of hummingbirds of all kinds of color, often with metallic luster. The color of plumage of these birds is strongly dependent on the microstructure of feathers from the reflection of light. Therefore, at different positions relative to the light colors of the same bird looks different. “All around us were worn hummingbirds, shimmered with all the finest shades of colors that can be seen only on the bubble,” – gave this description of the colors of a hummingbird Gerald Durrell.
Of the unique anatomical features that birds should be mentioned the very well-developed and powerful heart: it is in volume almost three times more than gastric and occupies half of the body cavity. This is due to the high mobility of birds and fast metabolism. Heart rate in hummingbirds is extraordinary: in some species, it reaches up to 1,000 strokes per minute.
Another amazing feature of hummingbirds is that the temperature of their body very unstable. They are warm-blooded only when they fly (they actually do this all the day). At dusk, each bird hurries to sit on a branch, and its body temperature immediately drops to 17-21 ° C, after which the hummingbirds still freeze up before morning. It is known that in such a state bird may spend 15-20 hours. According to the observations in captivity, hummingbirds in the case of lack of food becomes sluggish, down on the floor, is compressed into a ball, trying to close its small body with wings. The temperature of the body falls sharply, and there comes a stupor, from which the bird can be derived by heating it in the hands and immediate giving food. In captivity hummingbirds eat only honey dissolved in water.
Hummingbirds do not form pairs. All the family work, from building nests and raising chicks ending, fall exclusively on the females. For the nest are used the most delicate materials of flora and fauna origin. Outside the home is masked by a web or moss. Typically, the slot is arranged on a branch, often in its fork, it can be hung on a piece of palm trees or attached to a small ledge rock. There was a case when a hummingbird built a nest in the living room on a hanging lamp. Dimensions of nests of hummingbirds vary depending on the value of birds – from half of a walnut to the size of the baby’s head.
For the sake of the beautiful plumage of hummingbirds slaughtered many quantities, which led to a sharp decrease in the number of these birds. In the last century, millions of hummingbird skins were exported to Europe from South America and the Antilles. Only from the West Indies at London’s markets were imported up to 400 thousand units per year. Currently, more than 10 species of hummingbirds are in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, of which four species are recognized as Endangered Species.