(WHTM) — When many people think about spring, they may think of animals coming out of hibernation, trees turning green as their leaves return, and how April showers bring May flowers. But, there is one animal that you may not think of when it comes to spring. It’s an animal that, if you blink, you may miss as it zooms past.
Facts about Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds on earth, with some weighing in at less than 2 grams. According to the Smithsonian National Zoo website, the bee hummingbird of Cuba weighs only 1.95 grams, which means that, theoretically, 16 could be mailed first-class using just one stamp.
Hummingbirds are extremely fast. Their wings are capable of beating 70 times a second while flying, and if they are in a dive, they can beat up to 200 times a second. The same goes for their heartbeat. While at rest, a hummingbird’s heart beats around 225 times per minute. However, that number skyrockets to 1,200 beats per minute while in flight.
They are amazing acrobats, as they are the only vertebrates (which is a fancy word for animals with a spine) and are capable of sustained hovering. They can also fly upside down and backward at speeds up to 30-45 miles per hour.
Many people wonder if hummingbirds can actually sleep when they are always moving at breakneck speeds. The answer is yes. They go into a very deep sleep-like state called Torpor. According to the Smithsonian website, when hummingbirds go into torpor, metabolic functions are slowed to a minimum and a very low body temperature is maintained.
The Hummingbird of Pennsylvania
So, which ones can be found around the commonwealth?
One species that is well known in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. According to allaboutbirds.org, The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is eastern North America’s sole breeding hummingbird.
These birds, like any bird, go south in the winter and fly north in the spring and summer. These hummingbirds are bright emeralds or gold-green on their back and on their head.
To tell the difference between a male and female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has to do with the ruby throat. Males have an iridescent red throat that looks dark when it’s in the shade and glimmers brightly when light hits them.
Males do not stay as long as females do. You may see the female Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds more often than the males. Pairs are together long enough for mating – just a matter of days to weeks. Then he’s off on his own and may begin migration by early August.
How to Attract and Feed Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds love to eat nectar. They eat pretty much the whole day! According to the Smithsonian’s website, their high-energy lifestyle makes hummingbirds locate reliable food resources. But, they don’t just feed on nectar. During the breeding season, they can hover in midair, and catch insects to help them feed themselves or give them to their nestlings.
Tubular flowers are the flowers of choice for hummingbirds. Their long beak allows them to get the nectar out of these plants easily. But, you can help hummingbirds by putting out hummingbird feeders.
Many people buy pre-made hummingbird nectar. But, allaboutbirds.org says that they add food coloring to it and can make it toxic for the birds. The solution is to make your own sugar-water mixture. You can use a one-quarter cup of sugar per one cup of water. Personally, I like to bring this mixture to a boil, then have it cooled down. The hummingbirds love when they can sip on this cold mixture during the dog days of summer. Just remember to change this mixture out every so often, especially on hot days or the sugar water mixture can ferment. This can make the birds extremely sick.
Hummingbirds are fun to watch, and they help out the environment because they help pollinate like bees. But, enjoy them while they are here because they don’t hang around that long!