Lee County Master Gardeners at Hummingbird Day

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The Lee County Master Gardener Volunteers attended Hummingbird Day at Big Bloomers Saturday, July 30, 2016 to answer gardening questions. Take a look at the Hummingbird Fun Facts below:

Hummingbirds are found only in the Americas, mainly South America. The peak fall migration period for hummingbirds is from mid-July through August or early September, depending on the route and the exact species. Species that nest further north generally begin migration earlier.

There are more than 340 species of hummingbirds. Only 8 species regularly breed in the United States, though up to two dozen species may visit the country or be reported as regular vagrants. The rest of the hummingbirds are primarily tropical species and do not regularly migrate.

Hummingbirds are one of the smallest kinds of bird in the world. Most species are 3 – 5 inches in length. The Bee hummingbird is the smallest at just 2 in. The largest is the Giant Hummingbird reaching over 8 in. Despite their small size, hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive bird species. They will regularly attack jays, crows and hawks that infringe on their territory, and backyard birders often have one dominant hummingbird that guards all the feeders, chasing intruders away.

They are called hummingbirds due to the sound created by their rapidly beating wings. They can hover, fly forwards, backwards and even upside down. Depending on the species a hummingbird’s wings can flap on average around 50 times per second, and can reach as high as 200 times per second. This allows them to fly faster than 15 m/s or 34 mph and can reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive. They have many adaptations for unique flight.

Hummingbirds drink the nectar of flowers which gives them a good source of glucose energy. A hummingbird must consume approximately 1/2 of its weight in sugar daily, and the average hummingbird feeds 5-8 times per hour. In addition to nectar, these birds also eat many small insects and spiders, and may also sip tree sap or juice from broken fruits.

A hummingbird’s bill varies depending on the species. Most have a fairly long, thin bill that allows them to reach down to the nectar of a flower. With the bill slightly open they use their tongue to lap up the nectar inside. Because they need to conserve energy hummingbirds do not spend all day flying, they spend the majority of their time perched digesting their food.

An average hummingbird’s heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute. At rest, a hummingbird takes an average of 250 breaths per minute. Their breathing pace will increase when they are in flight. To conserve energy overnight a hummingbird enters a hibernation-like sleep state called torpor.

Depending on the species hummingbirds live on average 3 to 5 years. But have been known to live as long as 12 years.

Most hummingbirds of the US and Canada migrate over 1864 miles south in fall to spend winter in Mexico or Central America. Some South American species also move north to these areas during the southern winter. Before migrating, the hummingbird will store up a layer of fat equal to half its body weight in order to slowly use up this energy source while flying.