Bird Families

Short-tailed Hummingbird / Myrmia micrura


The birds belonging to this family are so different from the 2 families of the Swift-like order (from the Swifts) described above that they are distinguished into a separate suborder - Trochili. This includes the smallest birds in the world, weighing about 1.6-1.8 g. However, there are hummingbirds of larger sizes, for example, even the size of a swallow: the body length of a giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas) is about 20 cm.

The hummingbird's beak is thin and long, sometimes very long, for example, in the sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera), the beak is longer than the entire length of the bird (i.e., the head, neck and body). Thus, this species of hummingbird turns out to be the longest-billed bird in the world. Usually the beak is straight, sometimes it is slightly curved downwards, rarely strongly curved. The nostrils are slit-like, located near the edges of the beak. The hummingbird tongue is a long, thin tube with a fringe at the end.

The hummingbird's wings are not very long. Their main surface, like that of swifts, is made up of highly developed dense primary flight feathers, in hummingbirds there are 10. The wing is characterized by a reduced number of secondary flight feathers, in some cases there are only 6. The tail of a hummingbird has the most varied shape and length. Sometimes it is rather short and straight cut, sometimes cut out, sometimes it looks like open scissors, it happens that one pair of tail feathers is very much elongated. The usual number of tail feathers is 10, but some species have only 4 tail feathers, and one pair has a normal structure, and the other is elongated, their rods are devoid of a fan almost along their entire length, they look like a wire, and only at the end of the fan their fan expands in the form of a flag. The hummingbird's legs are four-toed, very weak.

The plumage of hummingbirds is of a wide variety of colors, often with a metallic sheen. The color of the plumage to a very strong extent depends on the microstructure of the feathers, on the reflection of light by them. Therefore, at a different position relative to the light, the colors of the same bird look different.

Some hummingbird species have a well-defined crest, while others have elongated feathers on the sides of the head or neck, forming a kind of collar.

From the anatomical signs, the extraordinary development of the heart should be mentioned: it is almost three times the volume of the stomach and occupies half of the body cavity. This is due to the high mobility of birds and a fast metabolism. We add that hummingbirds have more red blood cells than other birds. The heart rate in hummingbirds is extremely high: in some species it reaches 1000 per minute. The keel of the sternum is very large, long and high, and the muscles that control the movements of the wing are very strongly developed. The muscle that lifts the wing (subclavian muscle) weighs only half as much as the muscle that lowers the wing. A similar ratio is also observed in penguins. This is due to a lot of work done during wing lifting by penguins and hummingbirds. The humerus is very short, even shorter than that of the swifts, while it is directed parallel to the length of the body. This causes a peculiar movement of the hummingbird wing during flight: the humerus does not rise or fall, but rotates around its axis, and the tip of the wing describes an elongated figure eight. In this case, the wing is twisted, turning one side up, then the other. The wings move extremely quickly, so that the observer sees only a light cloud surrounding the bird and hears the slight noise of small wings. The smaller the hummingbird, the greater the number of strokes. The red hummingbird (Phaethornis ruber) weighing about 2 g makes 50-51 strokes per second, the tailed hummingbird (Eupetomena macroura) weighs 6 g - 21-23 strokes. During the mating flight, the number of flapping in some species of hummingbirds can increase to 100. While in flight, hummingbirds constantly hover, that is, they remain in the air in one place. At the same time, their body is in a position close to vertical.

Another great thing about hummingbirds is that their body temperature is very unstable. Hummingbirds are warm-blooded only when they move (fly), which happens throughout the day. With the onset of dusk, the bird hurries to sit on a branch, its body temperature drops sharply (up to 17-21 ° C), and it falls into a daze. It is known that hummingbirds can stay in a state of numbness for 15-20 hours.

According to observations in captivity, in the event of a lack of food, a hummingbird becomes lethargic, sinks to the floor, shrinks into a ball, trying to cover its small body with its wings. Its body temperature decreases, and numbness sets in, from which the bird can be taken out by heating it in the hands and immediately offering it food. It remains to be seen whether a hummingbird can remain in a torpor all winter. However, it is known that hummingbirds living in temperate latitudes fly to hot countries for the winter.

Hummingbirds eat a lot, eating about 2 times more food by weight per day than they themselves weigh. Only in this way can they maintain an increased metabolism and a constant body temperature. They feed on plant (flower nectar) and animal (small soft insects and spiders) food. Having flown up to the flower and stopped in front of it in the air, the hummingbird inserts its beak into the flower and, without opening it, only slightly raises the beak upward and sticks out the end of the tongue folded in a tube. Then, with strong swallowing movements, the nectar is pumped into the oral cavity, enters the esophagus and then, bypassing the stomach, pours into the duodenum. As for small insects and spiders, they enter the stomach. Some species collect spiders and insects from leaves and small twigs on the fly (hovering in the air). Sometimes hummingbirds catch flying insects. Hummingbird chicks are fed by pumping nectar into their beak, while they also hang in the air.

The experience of keeping hummingbirds in captivity has shown that they cannot do with nectar alone. They need to add animal protein to their food.

For the sake of beautiful plumage, hummingbirds are harvested in very large quantities, which led to a sharp decrease in the number of many of them. In the last century, millions of hummingbird skins were exported to Europe from South America and the Antilles. From the West Indies alone, sometimes up to 400 thousand hummingbirds a year were imported to London markets. Currently, there are bans and restrictions on the capture and trade of hummingbirds at the national and international levels. More than 10 species of hummingbirds are listed in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, of which 4 species are recognized as endangered (3 species from Brazil and 1 species from Chile).

Hummingbirds are widespread in the western hemisphere, and they also penetrate cold areas in the north and south of both continents of America. But the largest number of their species (163) is characteristic of the tropical north of South America - the Amazon basin. Most species of hummingbirds are found in Ecuador and the adjacent parts of Colombia and Peru. In the very south of South America and on Tierra del Fuego, only one species nests. One species, the ruby-necked hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), is common in eastern North America as far north as Labrador, and one species, the ocher hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), is found in western North America from Mexico to Alaska. In June 1976, a buffy hummingbird flew to Ratmanov Island in the Bering Strait. This is the first finding of a hummingbird in our country.

Hummingbirds inhabit plains and mountains, humid habitats and even deserts. Some species have a wide range, while others are distributed in a very small area, sometimes on the top of one mountain. The latter is usually associated with the presence only there of a fodder plant, to the size and shape of the flowers of which the bird's beak is adapted.

Hummingbirds do not form steam. All nesting matters for them, from the construction of the nest to the raising of the chicks, fall exclusively to the lot of the female. The most delicate materials of both animal and plant origin are used for the construction of the nest. Outside, the nest is masked with cobwebs or moss. As a rule, the nest is arranged on a branch, often at its fork, it can hang on a palm leaf or attach to a small ledge of a rock.

There is a known case when a hummingbird flew into the room where the preparator was working and dragged cotton wool from him for his nest. Another hummingbird built a nest in the living room on a hanging lamp.

The size of hummingbird nests varies, depending on the size of the birds, from half a walnut to almost the size of a child's head. Sometimes nests are very deep, so that the incubating bird literally drowns in the nest, sticking out of it only the beak and tail.

Clutch in almost all cases consists of 2 eggs, very rarely there is only 1 egg. Eggs are elliptical, white. In the smallest species, the egg weighs 2 mg. Chicks hatch blind and naked and then immediately fledge without wearing, at least for a short time, a downy outfit. The duration of incubation is 14-19 days, and the stay of chicks in the nest is 19-25 days. Sometimes it happens that while the parents are busy looking for food, the chicks lose too much heat, become lethargic and even go into a daze. However, the mother who flew in with the food bothers the chicks, feeds them almost forcibly and thus brings them back to life.

The male, although he does not take part in nest building and incubation, nevertheless zealously guards the territory occupied by him and vigorously drives away all unwanted newcomers.

There are 338 species in the hummingbird family (in addition, 1 fossil species is known), united in 116 genera. With a large external variety of species, the hummingbird family should be recognized as rather homogeneous, homogeneous. Most likely, hummingbirds originated in the Upper Pleistocene.

Many hummingbird species are still very poorly understood. Some species are known from only a few specimens. The above-mentioned sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) deserves mention. It is a large hummingbird, generally green in color, with a very long (8-10 cm) beak. Its length is equal to the length of the bird's body, measured from the base of the beak to the end of the tail. The female has a slightly longer beak than the male.

This hummingbird inhabits the Andes from Venezuela to northern Bolivia. Its long beak allows it to reach the nectar of large tubular flowers of various nightshades. When at rest, the sword-billed hummingbird keeps its beak pointing straight up. During flight, the beak has a horizontal position, directed forward.

The ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), one of the smallest species in the family, belongs to the east of North America and is very widespread there. To the north, its range reaches the southern part of Canada. Above this bird is green, below it is grayish-white, the color of the throat of the male is ruby.

These are migratory birds flying over the winter to the territory from the south of Mexico to Panama. Their path from nesting sites in Labrador to wintering sites is 4000-5000 km. During their flights, some birds cross the vast expanses of the Gulf of Mexico, fly to Florida and Cuba. Some specimens were found "lost" in Bermuda, that is, 1100 km from the mainland.

The sappho hummingbird (Sappho sparganura) is characteristic of the southern part of Bolivia and Northwest Argentina. It adheres to the dry, open landscape of the foothills and high plateau of the Bolivian Andes. The head and front of the body are brilliant green, the back is purple-violet, the long forked tail is red, with black ends of each feather. When a bird soars upward with great ease, its "burning" tail gives the impression of a comet trail. Due to immoderate pursuit, this bird has now become very rare.

The angel hummingbird (Heliomaster furcifer) is a very colorful bird. Her throat is dull scarlet, the rest of the bottom is brilliant blue, blue feathers in the form of a collar protrude on the sides of the throat, the lower tail coverts are green. The top of the head is salad-colored. Each feather is bordered by a dark border and gives the impression of a scale. The Angel Hummingbird lives in Brazil and Northern Argentina.

The long-tailed hummingbird (Phaethornis superciliosus) inhabits Central and South America. The central pair of tail feathers of this bird is highly elongated, the protruding part of these feathers is white. Long-tailed hummingbirds nest at the ends of tree leaves hanging down.

The topaz hummingbird (Topaza pella) is characteristic of the northeast of South America. In contrast to most other hummingbirds that inhabit low-lying rainforests, which are relatively modestly colored, the topaz hummingbird is exceptionally brightly colored. It has a light green throat, blue top and sides of the head, light ruby ​​belly, greenish underwing coverts, purple tail feathers, 2 of which are highly elongated. This bird prefers to live in lush forests along the banks of large rivers or along the banks of quiet lagoons, where it hunts low above the water for flying insects. During the day, she hides from the heat in the shade of tall trees. The nest is usually arranged on vegetation hanging over the water, in a weave of vines. In such places, you can sometimes see entire colonies of nesting females. Previously common in these areas, the topaz hummingbird has become very rare due to excessive pursuit for beautiful plumage.

The rocket-tailed hummingbird (Loddigesia mirabilis) is one of the smallest hummingbirds found in the high valley of Peru at an altitude of about 900 m. For a number of years it has been known for only one specimen. In 1880 he was found in another mountain valley, and he has not been found anywhere else. This hummingbird is predominantly green in color, with a purple head top and a blue nape. He has only 4 tail feathers. The extreme pair of them is elongated, over a greater extent, the rods of these feathers are devoid of fans and resemble a wire, and only at the very end of the fan do they expand in the form of flags of a purple color with a metallic sheen. These1 feathers are curved and crisscross.

Hummingbirds (Trochilidae (Vigors, 1825)) are a family of small birds, the only one in the order of hummingbirds (Latin Trochiliformes). More than 330 species are known. Come from America (from South Alaska and Labrador to Tierra del Fuego). The only bird in the world that can fly backwards. / (Wikipedia)

Hummingbird: description

The hummingbird family is quite variegated and is known to scientists under the Latin name "Trochilidae".

In their anatomy, hummingbirds are similar to passerines, since they have a short neck, long wings and a medium-sized head. We can say that this is where the similarities end, as hummingbirds boast large varieties of beaks, beautiful feather colors, etc., which cannot be said about passerines.

As a rule, males have brighter and more attractive coloring of appearance. At the same time, they have various small tufts of feathers on their heads, in the form of crests. The shape of the beak can be either straight or curved in any direction, and also differs in size.

Interesting to know! The upper half of the beak encloses the lower part, while there are no bristles at the base of the beak. But the hummingbird boasts a long forked tongue, with the help of which the bird feeds on the nectar of the inflorescences.

These birds have short and poorly developed legs, so they cannot be seen moving on the ground. They are only able to cling to a branch and hold on to it. It should be noted that this bird does not need strong legs, since they spend most of their life in the air, in search of food.

Plumage and wings

In their structure, the wings of a hummingbird are similar to the wings of butterflies, since the bones in them have grown together, and a large useful wing area is obtained. To control the wings of an increased area, strong muscles and a sufficiently mobile shoulder joint are required. Their share in the total body weight of the bird is at least 25 percent.

Although the family is distinguished by a variety of tail shapes, they all consist of 10 tail feathers. The only exception is the racket-tailed hummingbird, whose tail consists of only 4 tail feathers.Hummingbirds are called flying jewels, due to the presence of bright and varied plumage, with a metallic sheen. At the same time, bird feathers have amazing properties: their color can change depending on the angle of inclination in relation to the sun's rays, as well as in relation to the angle of human vision.

Hummingbird species

To date, scientists know about 330 classified hummingbird species. Among this multitude, there are both small (very) and solid birds.

The gigantic hummingbird is considered the largest species, since its body length reaches all 20 cm, or even more. This species is found within South America, and even in mountainous terrain, at an altitude of about 5 thousand meters. The bird is distinguished by a straight, but long beak and tail, reminiscent of a pitchfork.

The bee hummingbird species is considered the smallest of the entire family, as it grows in length a little more than 5 and a half cm, and weighs a little more than one and a half grams. The tiny hummingbird is found exclusively in Cuba.

The eagle-billed hummingbird lives in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Its peculiarity lies in the shape of its beak, which is curved downward, almost 90 degrees.

An interesting moment! The ocher hummingbird, aka red selasphorus, at one time appeared on the territory of Russia. This happened in 1976, when this bird was seen on Ratmanov Island, while, according to eyewitnesses, the ocher hummingbird was seen in Chukotka, as well as on Wrangel Island.

The usual habitats of the red selasphorus are the territories of North America, while the bird flies to Mexico for the winter. Adults are about 8 and a half centimeters long and have a long and thin beak.

Sword-beak is another member of the family with a rather long beak compared to the length of the body. Its length is more than 10 centimeters, with a maximum body length of 23 centimeters. The main body color of this bird is dark green.

Natural habitats

For their habitat, hummingbirds choose places where there is a lot of fragrant vegetation with flowers. As a rule, such places are located in the tropics.

The homeland of almost all hummingbirds is the New World. In this regard, their habitat extends to Central and South America, including the south of North America. Basically, these are sedentary birds, with some exceptions. The ruby-throated hummingbird is not. Its natural habitats are associated with the northern borders abutting Canada and the Rocky Mountains.

This type of hummingbird prefers to lead an isolated lifestyle, but with the onset of cold weather, it has to fly to more comfortable territories in Mexico. At the same time, the bird overcomes a route that is almost 5 thousand kilometers long, at a speed of almost 80 km / h, which is pretty decent, as for such a bird.

For most species, their range is limited to a specific area. Typically, these species are called endemics. A striking example of this species is the bee hummingbird, which lives only in Cuba.

Behavior and lifestyle

Despite the fact that hummingbirds are generally not large in size, they are able to fend for themselves if it concerns their living space.

These birds are mainly solitary, with the most active period observed from early morning and throughout the day. As night falls, their lives change dramatically.

An important point! Due to the very fast metabolism in the hummingbird's body, these birds need to constantly feed, which becomes inaccessible to them at night. In order not to waste their energy even at night, hummingbirds fall asleep. As a result, their body temperature drops to almost 17 degrees, and their pulse slows down significantly. As soon as the sun rises, hummingbirds immediately wake up and a new day begins.

Many believe that all hummingbirds flap their wings at a rate of up to a hundred beats per second. In fact, this is not the case, and the frequency of the flaps of the wings depends on the size of the bird. Most of the species cost no more than 10 wing beats.

The flight of a hummingbird somewhere resembles a flight of a butterfly, but this is only at first glance, since the flight of a hummingbird is much more difficult and maneuverable. The hummingbird can fly both forward and backward, not to mention flying to the sides. In addition, the hummingbird is capable of hovering in the air like a helicopter, as well as vertically taking off and landing.

When a bird hangs, its wings move in figure eight, which is inaccessible for most species of birds. At the same time, the movements of the wings are barely caught by the human eye, so their movements often become vague, which gives the impression of the absence of wings, as such.

How many waves per second does a hummingbird make?

In addition to their bright plumage and small size, hummingbirds have something to surprise us with - the speed with which these birds flap their wings is truly fantastic. In a short time, during which a person only has time to blink, the hummingbird makes dozens of flaps of its wings. So how many flaps of its wings per second does a hummingbird do? Small hummingbirds make 80-100 strokes per second, large hummingbirds are not so agile and only make 8-10 strokes per second. Thanks to such a fast flapping of their wings, these birds can literally hover in the air over some flower, extracting nectar from it with their long beaks.

The flight of a hummingbird in its properties is somewhat similar to the flight of butterflies, and what is interesting, hummingbirds are the only birds among birds that can fly in the opposite direction. Hummingbirds can fly at up to 80 km per hour. True, such fast flights are not easy for them, since they consume a large amount of energy, for example, a bird's heart during a fast flight accelerates to 1200 beats per minute, while at rest it makes only 500 beats per minute.

Where hummingbirds live

Hummingbirds live exclusively on the American continent, and in both South and North America, wherever there are flowers. Hummingbirds are mostly sedentary, preferring to settle in mountain meadows and humid equatorial forests. Some species of these birds, such as the ruby-throated hummingbird, are resistant to cold climates, and live, for example, in Canada.

What does hummingbird eat?

One of the additional nicknames that these birds have - "feathered bee", perfectly characterizes what they eat. Like bees, hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and, like bees, also perform the useful function of pollinating flowers.

But hummingbirds are not limited to just flower nectar, being omnivores, they also hunt various small insects, which they catch right on the fly. It should be noted that hummingbirds are incredibly voracious (as for their small size, of course), so the total weight of food consumed per day may even exceed its own weight of a hummingbird by 1.5 times. It is also interesting that while taking nectar, the tongue of the hummingbird descends into the neck of the flower at a rate of 20 times per second.

Hummingbird enemies

The hummingbirds also have their enemies who are not averse to feasting on these bright birds - these are various larger feathered predators, snakes and bird-eating spiders. But it is also very difficult for them to catch a hummingbird with incredible speeds. In addition, hummingbirds are very brave and can sometimes bravely fight back or even attack larger birds.

But the main and most dangerous enemy of the hummingbird, like other representatives of the animal world, is, of course, man. So the deforestation of the tropical forests of South America led to the fact that 2 species of hummingbirds living in these forests disappeared completely, and 46 species are now listed in the Red Book. Although part of the hummingbird has adapted to being close to humans, and even feels quite well in city parks and flower gardens.


This is the smallest representative of hummingbirds, and indeed of all birds on Earth. The bee hummingbird has a size of 7 cm and is found in Cuba.

Gigantic hummingbird

And this is on the contrary, the largest representative of the hummingbird family, its body length is 21-22 cm and weighs 18-20 grams.

Hummingbird breeding

The hummingbird nest, where they lay their eggs, is as small as its mistresses, it is about the size of a small cup. These hummingbirds create nests from cobwebs, fluff, blades of grass, pieces of bark.

Usually, in one clutch, a hummingbird lays 2 eggs each 10 mm in diameter. The female hummingbird is hatching eggs for 14-19 days, then for several months after the birth of the chicks, she feeds them until they become ready for independent life.

Interesting facts about hummingbirds

  • According to the beliefs of the American Indians of the Aztecs, hummingbirds are the reincarnation of the souls of dead warriors.
  • The oldest hummingbirds known to science, about 30 million years old, were found in Germany, which indicates their wider habitat in antiquity. Subsequently, hummingbirds in Europe were not preserved for one reason or another.
  • Hummingbirds are present on the coat of arms of Latin American countries such as Trinidad and Tobago.

Hummingbird, video

And in conclusion, an interesting documentary about our today's heroine - "The secret life of a hummingbird."

What do hummingbirds eat

These tiny creatures are so busy during the daylight hours that they are looking for food for themselves and feed. Their body metabolism requires constant replenishment of nutrients. To fully provide itself with energy, the bird needs to eat 2 times more per day compared to its weight. At the same time, hummingbirds feed exclusively in flight and you can never see how a hummingbird eats, sitting on a branch and, even more so, on the ground.

It is important to know! The diet of these birds is based on nectar and pollen from various plants. At the same time, different types of hummingbirds are characterized by certain gastronomic preferences. There are species that fly from flower to flower, regardless of the type of plant, and there are species that feed on the nectar or pollen of certain types of plants.

Therefore, scientists suggest that the shape of the beaks of some hummingbird species is adapted to the structure of the calyx of a particular type of flower.

In the process of feeding on nectar, the bird lowers its long tongue into the neck of the flower several dozen times. At the same time, the twisted tongue first straightens and captures the sweet substance, after which it is twisted again and pulled into the beak. As a result of feeding on nectar and pollen, the body of the hummingbird is saturated with carbohydrates in sufficient quantities. But for the normal functioning of their bodies, they also need protein. In this regard, hummingbirds also catch insects on the fly.

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