Hummingbirds are inspirational. Hummingbirds are the smallest species of bird. The smallest hummingbird, the bee hummingbird, can be just an inch long and weigh less that a penny. The giant hummingbird is approximately 8.5 inches in length and weighs about 20 grams. Most hummingbirds are between 3 and 5 inches. There are approximately 300 species and fossils have dated hummingbirds back approximately 30 million years.
Hummingbirds are acrobatic flyers. The can fly straight, up and down, backwards, and, even, upside down. They have legs, but only use them to perch. They hover while feeding, making figure eight motions with their wings to stay aloft and in place. Their beaks and tongues are formed to allow them access to nectar from flowers. Their bodies are approximately a quarter muscle and their metabolisms are very high making feedings necessarily frequent. A hummingbird feeds on flower nectar primarily, but do get needed protein by feeding on insects and spiders.
Tropical plants and hummingbirds are mutualistic. They help each other. Hummingbirds pollinate flowers while they travel from flower to flower feeding. Flowers and hummingbirds have evolved over time to allow this mutualistic relationship to strengthen and continue.
Hummingbirds are found in many places in the world. Tropical areas with warm weather and tropical plants are ideal. Species are found across North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Many species live in range of the Andes Mountains of South America. Hummingbirds must fly from flower to flower each day. They consume more than their weight in nectar each day. Their metabolisms are very high. When weather is not ideal or food is scarce torpor helps them conserve energy. Torpor is a state similar to hibernation. Torpor allows hummingbirds to slow their metabolic rate and they enter torpor nightly or when food is scarce.
Colors of hummingbirds and the mutualistic plants upon which they feed have evolved over time. Flowers produced by plants pollinated by hummingbirds come in shades of red, orange, and pink among others. Competition in feeding and territory where they live, as well as, courtship makes color variation of feathers important. Vivid colors have become crucial and are varied between species.
Hummingbirds are small, but their history is vast. Many people enjoy them and flowers that exist in part because of them. Be inspired! Have a bright day!