By Christine Donald, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Santa Ana NWR
published May 2016
Spring is in the air with all of its glorious renewal.
Wildflowers are sprouting, butterflies
are fluttering, birds are singing and green grass
is growing, signaling for many that it is once
again time for mowing and weed-eating.
For me, it means that it is time for hummingbirds
to make their appearance. I look forward
to their arrival and enjoy watching them. They
are true marvels in the bird world.
Hummingbirds are New World birds that constitute
the family Trochilidae including over
300 species. Among the smallest of birds, most
species measure in the 7.5 - 13 cm range.
The smallest hummingbird, the bee hummingbird, shown here at its approximate
actual size, weighs less than a penny.
Have you ever wondered where their name
comes from? Their name comes from the humming
sound created when they flap their wings
80 times per second. They are true aviators in the sky and can
fly right, left, up, down, backwards and even
upside down. They are also able to hover by
flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They
have a specialized long and tapered bill that is
used to obtain nectar from the center of long,
The hummingbird's feet are used for perching
only, and not for hopping or walking.
Hummingbirds primarily eat flower nectar,
tree sap, insects and pollen. Their metabolism
with a high heart rate, fast breathing and body
temperature require that they eat frequently.
They even eat fast with a tongue that can lick
their food 13 times per second.
Part of the fascination with watching hummingbirds
is their behavior. They are very territorial
and their hilarious antics chasing one
another and even larger birds like hawks are
fun to watch. I have seen hummingbirds chase
one another, being so focused on getting rid of
the other bird on their favorite feeder that they have flown right in a suet cake on a feeder or
the screen on my porch and getting their beak
stuck. All safely survived and went on to defend
their territories fiercely, not the least embarrassed
about their mishaps.
Historically hummingbirds were killed for
their beautiful feathers; today they face different
but equally devastating threats of habitat
loss and destruction. Many of the species
populations have dropped due to habitat loss.
Changing climate and temperatures disrupt
their migratory patterns which may cause them
to end up outside their normal ranges where
they may be unable to find food. Luckily, for
the hummingbirds there are lots of folks that
put up feeders, like me, because
we enjoying watching their antics.
Both parties benefit.
The joy of watching them is
easy for all. Take some sugar (1
cup per 4 cups water), heat it till
the sugar dissolves and put in a
Hang in a tree or on a hook and
enjoy the beauty of hummingbirds.