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The Wonder of Hummingbirds

Their average flight speed is around 30 miles an hour and their hearts beat up to 12 hundred times a minute. They can hear better and see farther than people do, with a metabolism rate almost 100 times that of an elephant. All this from the tiniest bird in the world. Wild Side Guide Ken Tucker takes us to the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, where hundreds of humans came to celebrate the wonder of hummingbirds at an annual festival sponsored by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. The next festival is scheduled for August 23, 2014 at Ijams Nature Center.

Most hummingbirds in Tennessee are ruby-throated hummingbirds. These tiny birds weigh only 0.1 ounce and males are typically smaller than the females. Both males and females are a metallic bronze-green color on their crown, nape, back and middle two tail feathers. Males typically have green sides while females have brownish sides, and the wings and outer tail feathers of both sexes are dark, with a hint of purple. The female’s tail is rounded and has white on the tips of the outer feathers, while the male’s tail does not have this white coloration and is slightly notched. Males can be easily distinguished from females because of their brilliant, iridescent red throats, which seen from the side may appear golden, greenish, or even dark. The chin and side of the male’s head below the eyes is black, while the female’s chin is white.

Hummingbirds are migratory, flying up to 600 miles from the eastern United States across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula each winter and back to their breeding grounds in the United States each spring. During the summer, hummingbirds live along the edge of wooded areas and open fields so they can stay close to the trees they nest in, while also having a supply of flowering plants and insects nearby for food.

While hummingbirds drink plant nectar, they also eat pollen and tiny insects such as bees, ants, flies and beetles. Before migrating, ruby-throated hummingbirds often double in weight, allowing a typical hummingbird to fly nearly 600 miles without having to stop for food!

A great way to attract hummingbirds to your home is to put up a feeder. The best food to use in a feeder is sugar water you make at home…4 parts water to 1 part sugar…and NO food coloring, which can be harmful. Be sure to change the nectar 2-3 times a week so it doesn’t spoil and be sure to clean your feeder regularly. If you have problems with mold on your feeder, try washing it with vinegar and water.

Here are a few websites with more interesting hummingbird facts.

World of Hummingbirds

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology