Eating hummingbirds ants 1

Hummingbirds - brilliant aerial acrobats

No one except them can fly on the spot or even backwards, no bird is smaller and lighter, no heart beats faster, no vertebrate zooms faster (based on its body size): hummingbirds are the absolute high-flyers - and so inventive that they can move in millions of years conquered all of America. Between South Alaska and Tierra del Fuego, these dazzling birds are buzzing through the ocean of flowers; however, most of the 340 or so hummingbird species love it tropical.

World record in being small

The name says it all: Bee elf (see picture gallery below) is the name of the greatest lightweight in the entire bird world: this tiny hummingbird weighs only two grams, is about as short as our little finger at 6 centimeters and lays pea-sized eggs. The smallest birds on earth are at home on the Caribbean island of Cuba.
The name Giant hummingbird, who lives in the Andes in Peru and Chile, feigns size: Although it is the giant in the family, it is only 25 centimeters long and just as heavy as a standard letter: 20 grams.

Invisible flapping of wings

40 to 80 wing beats per second - that too is a bird's world record; and the fastest are the little hummingbirds. We can only unravel this top performance with a camera: the wings rotate in the shoulder joint and remain rigidly spread when swinging up and down (other birds fold their wings when they move upwards). Due to their unique flight style, the hummingbirds can not only pause precisely in place to quietly suck nectar from the flower. You can also lie on your side or on your back if the inflorescence so wishes. And many a hummingbird could never pull its beak out of the flower without going backwards.

Beak and flower - the perfect pair

Well over half of all plants in America benefit from the hummingbirds: The birds pollinate the flowers and are rewarded with nectar. This living community, which is also called symbiosis, has been refined more and more over the course of many millions of years:
So did the Sword-billed hummingbird (see picture gallery below) in his homeland of the Andes he conquered two plants exclusively: At ten centimeters, his beak is almost as long as his body (another record), and with it he can easily extract the nectar from the 20 centimeter long calyx of the angel's trumpet and sucking the tubular flowers of the passion flower.
The Eagle-bill hummingbird does not have to share the juice of the heliconia with anyone: only its curved beak fits perfectly into the curved flower.
No matter how long and shaped their beak: Hummingbirds have a long tongue, split at the tip, with which they suck up the nectar like a straw.

Speed ​​frenzy

Hummingbirds are not only the most agile, but also the fastest vertebrates in the world - in terms of body size: The only ten centimeters small Anna hummingbirds are supposed to lie down 98 km / h during their courtship dive, that is 385 body lengths per second. A peregrine falcon can only manage 200 body lengths.

Nectar as fuel

Life at high speed costs a lot of strength and energy. This is why hummingbirds need more oxygen than any other vertebrate: their heart beats 400 times per minute - when they are sitting. During the flight there are 1,200 times, that's 20 heartbeats per second! In order not to starve to death during the whole show of strength, hummingbirds have to drink nectar every 15 minutes - much more per day than they weigh themselves. They also need protein to build muscle and feathers, which is why the insects peck from the flowers.
In order to save energy, hummingbirds remember every cup they have emptied - quite an achievement for such a tiny brain.

Sleep and brood on the back burner

Because they do not eat at night and when it is cold, hummingbirds fall into a kind of hibernation: the heart only beats 40 instead of 400 times per minute, so they only use a hundredth of the energy. In the morning they warm themselves up by trembling for half an hour.

Play of colors

This is how the plants trick:
Flowers in red and orange - every hummingbird flies on them. In this way, the plants attract their pollinators and give the small birds an advantage over bees, which perceive red tones as gray or black.
This is how the birds deceive:
Shimmering metallic colors are the hallmark of the hummingbirds. They are caused by air pockets in the feathers that break and reflect sunlight. How much and whether the plumage shimmers depends on the angle of incidence of the sun's rays - and the hummingbirds can cleverly influence this with their movements: to shine about females or to warn predators - or to make themselves invisible from predators such as snakes, birds of prey and cats .

Date: 07/07/2014

Last updated: August 25, 2020