Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures – true wonders of nature. It’s no wonder they were my grandmother’s favorite. And, they are also a favorite of mine. I’ve been trying to attract them to my yard for a few years, and I’m fortunate that this year they have accepted my invitation.  At present, I have at least 3 – 4 regular visitors. I enjoy sitting on my deck with my camera waiting for them to come to the feeder and flowers.

Fast Moving Subjects

Since they are small and FAST, hummingbirds are tricky photographic subjects. In most cases, you’re not going to get very close to them. So, you’re going to need a telephoto lens.  Although, I have seen pictures and videos of them landing on people’s hands. Big lenses are heavy and it requires a lot of movement to keep them in focus. In addition, a DSLR camera capable of shooting continuous pictures is necessary.

In addition to being great photographic subjects, the birds themselves are extremely intriguing and mysterious. Since it is good to learn about the animals that you are photographing, I did some research. I’ve compiled a list of hummingbird facts.

Hummingbird Facts

  • We often associate them with flowers and nectar feeders, but hummingbirds need protein – which they get from eating small insects. They need protein to build muscle and replace feathers.
  • Hummingbirds are the only bird that can fly backward. They are incredibly agile acrobatic flyers – even able to fly backward and upside down.
  • Despite their size, they are aggressive and territorial. They will regularly chase other hummingbirds away from feeders and flowers. They will also chase bigger birds.
  • Even though they are aggressive and will fight bigger birds, they flee from bees and wasps. Because of their size, they can’t risk being stung. It could be fatal.
  • The sicklebill and the swordbill hummingbirds have bills designed for specific flowers: Angel’s Trumpet (Swordbill) & Heliconia (Sicklebill). Because their beaks are made to give them exclusive rights to the nectar – there’s no need to defend their territory.
  • Like bees and butterflies, hummingbirds are natural pollinators. As they get nectar from the flowers, pollen is transferred between the plant and the bird.
  • Drinks more than it’s bodyweight in nectar each day. They need to feed on average, every 15 minutes.
  • No other bird can hold its position perfectly in space.
  • Their wings beat as fast as 80 times per second.
  • Because of huge oxygen demands, a hummingbird’s heart beats around 400 times a minute (when perched). While flying it increases to 1200 beats per minute.
  • While they’re flying, the hummingbird’s heart increases in size to support the need to get oxygen to the wing muscles.
  • Every night hummingbirds go into a hibernation state: their body temperature drops very low, their heart rate drops from 400 to 40, and they use 1/100 of the energy used when flying, and they are unable to move.
  • The smallest hummingbirds, the Woodstar, weigh about 2 grams (as much as a penny), and they are amongst the smallest warm blooded creatures on earth.
  • Ruby throated hummingbirds must fly south for the winter. To do so, they need to consume a lot of nectar. They nearly double their weight – converting the sugar to fat.
  • As part of the migration – tens of thousands of ruby throated hummingbirds stop in Rockport, Texas to fatten up for their flight across the Gulf of Mexico. That flight is nearly 500 miles nonstop.

As you can see from this list of hummingbird facts, they are uniquely interesting little birds.

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