In spite of their size, hummingbirds are incredibly aggressive. Unfortunately, no amount of defense can keep them immune from the effects of climate change.
While the smallest bird in the entire avian kingdom, hummingbirds still pack a colorful punch when it comes to their magnificently iridescent feathers. From bright crimson red to luminous emerald, to even a modest brown color, hummingbird feathers are extremely intricate- and there are over 300 species of this extraordinary bird spread throughout the Western hemisphere! As you can imagine, it’s not an easy task to capture these little guys on film – but when it happens, the results are fantastic.
All hummingbirds have a pigment in their feathers that can make them appear different colors -depending on the angle at which they are viewed, how they are flying (they can fly both backwards and upside-down) and the position of the sun. Hovering can also be accomplished by flapping their wings in a figure eight rotation. They never use their feet to walk or hop, so they are constantly burning energy and need to eat frequently – whether it’s nectar, pollen, insects, or tree sap. Even though their feet are poorly developed, they can still perch when needed – mostly to feed from gardener’s backyard feeders.
Unfortunately, some of these beautiful birds are nearing endangered status, as climate change is affecting their migratory patterns and ultimately taking them places where it’s harder for them to find food. Luckily for them, many birdwatchers and avian enthusiasts put out feeders to attract them -and that helps to provide energy for their migration.
Hummingbirds use their tail feathers when producing a mating call. Shrill squeaks emit from their tail feathers while they’re in flight – squeaks that were originally thought to come from the birds’ throats.
Male hummingbirds will swoop and dive through the air in order for their tail feathers to give off the high octave sound that attracts the females. The sound of the mating call differs among species and sex, so a wine-throated hummingbird’s call and a fiery-throated hummingbird’s calls sound completely different. Different species of hummingbirds can also mate together, producing hybrids. That’s one reason why identifying different types of hummingbirds can be so difficult!
Hummingbirds are known for giving off a low frequency buzzing sound when they fly, which is the result of the intense speeds that at which hummingbirds flap their wings. They use these sounds as communication tools the same way larger birds do. They lack a true song, but they are able to chirp and vocalize in other ways.
Even though they’re the smallest species of birds, they have a lot feathers. How many? Most birds can have up to 900 of them, but some species can have around 1,500. They have the largest ratio of feathers to body size than any other bird, even though they have the least amount of feathers compared to larger species.
Their small stature definitely doesn’t mean they are weak; hummingbirds are actually extremely aggressive. They will fight birds much bigger than themselves, even hawks! Anything that steps into their territory is fair game, and hummingbirds aren’t afraid to put up a fight.
You can adopt a hummingbird or otherwise support their preservation by visiting the Defenders of Wildlife hummingbird page.