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Hummingbirds are unique in the avian world. In addition to being the worlds smallest bird, they have the fastest wingbeats and are the only bird with the ability to hover and even fly backwards. They spend a good part of their day hovering at flowers to obtain the nectar and sugar necessary to maintain their fast metabolism.

Natural History

There are over a dozen species of hummingbirds that live in Arizona at least part of the year; they include the Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Anna's, Costa's & Rufous humming bird. They range in size from 2 to 5 inches in length, and from 2 to 10 grams in weight. The males are the most colorful and may have bright throat and head patches (probably to attract females). 

Why does the hummingbird hum? Because it's beating its wings more than 80 times each second!

In the Sonoran Desert, hummingbirds can be found in desert, grassland, woodland and forest, though they tend to prefer the scrubbier open areas. They primarily feed on nectar (or sugar water if you have a feeder like I do), but also will eat small insects. Hummingbirds are extremely territorial and protect their food and nests vigorously by chasing off any other hummers that come near. Females do all the work when it comes to chicks. She will build the nest, incubate the eggs and tend to the young until they are old enough to survive on their own. The best time to see hummers in Arizona is in late summer, when several species are traveling through the region on their way south.

Here are a few interesting Hummingbird facts:
  • Hummingbirds have hearts that are larger in proportion to body size than those of any other warm-blooded animal.
  • Hummers have the most rapid heart rate for a bird - up to 500 beats per minute at rest and 1260 bpm during activity.
  • Their flight muscles account for 25-30% of their body weight (in other birds it is typically 15-25%).
  • They can dive at over 60 miles per hour.
  • They have high body temperatures - 105 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hummingbirds may consume 70% of their body weight in solid food per day and 4-8 times their body weight in water.
  • You can make your own hummingbird nectar by mixing 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.

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