Do Hummingbirds Hum?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Hummingbirds

Do Hummingbirds Hum?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Hummingbirds

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Do Hummingbirds Hum?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Hummingbirds by Carol A Butler, George C West

Hummingbirds may be the smallest birds in the world, but they have the biggest appetites. Their wings flutter on average fifty to eighty times each second as they visit hundreds of flowers over the course of a day to sip the sweet nectar that sustains them. Their hearts beat nearly twelve hundred times a minute and their rapid breathing allows these amazing birds to sustain their unique manner of flight. They can hover in the air for prolonged periods, fly backwards using forceful wings that swivel at the shoulder, and dive at nearly two hundred miles per hour. Native only to the Americas, some hummingbirds have been known to migrate from Mexico to Alaska in the course of a season. Watching a hummingbird at a backyard feeder, we only see its glittering iridescent plumage and its long, narrow beak; its rapidly moving wings are a blur to our eyes.

These tiny, colorful birds have long fascinated birders, amateur naturalists, and gardeners. But, do they really hum?

In Do Hummingbirds Hum? George C. West, who has studied and banded over 13,500 hummingbirds in Arizona, and Carol A. Butler provide an overview of hummingbird biology for the general reader, and more detailed discussions of their morphology and behavior for those who want to fly beyond the basics. Enriched with beautiful and rare photography, including a section in vivid color, this engaging question and answer guide offers readers a wide range of information about these glorious pollinators as well as tips for attracting, photographing, and observing hummingbirds in the wild or in captivity..

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813549286
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 03/05/2010
Series: Animals Q & A
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

George C. West is a professor emeritus of zoophysiology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and a researcher in the physiology and ecology of birds. He has published more than one hundred scientific papers, provided hundreds of illustrations for others, and recently published the revised and updated A Birder's Guide to Alaska.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

1 Hummingbird Basics 1

1 What is a hummingbird? 1

2 How do hummingbirds differ from other birds? 2

3 Where in the world are hummingbirds found? 3

4 When did hummingbirds evolve? 7

5 How are hummingbirds classified? 12

6 What are the differences between typical or trochilid hummingbirds and hermits? 13

7 How many species of hummingbirds are there in the world? 14

8 How long do hummingbirds live? 15

9 Which are the smallest and largest hummingbirds? 16

2 Systems and Senses 19

1 Are hummingbirds intelligent? 19

2 What do hummingbirds eat? 21

3 Why do hummingbirds need to eat so much? 26

4 How do hummingbirds know which flowers have nectar? 27

5 How do hummingbirds digest their food? 28

6 How do hummingbirds get rid of the water from all that nectar they drink? 30

7 Why do hummingbirds have such long bills? 31

8 How can hummingbirds be so active? 33

9 Are hummingbirds warm blooded or cold blooded? 36

10 How fast does a hummingbird's heart beat? 37

11 How do hummingbirds conserve energy? 37

12 Can hummingbirds walk? 39

13 Do hummingbirds have a good sense of smell? 39

14 Do hummingbirds hear well? 41

15 Do hummingbirds have good eyesight? 43

16 Do hummingbirds hum? 45

17 Do hummingbirds sing? 47

3 Feathers and Bones 50

1 How fast does a hummingbird beat its wings? 50

2 How does a hummingbird hover? 52

3 How is the hummingbird's skeleton adapted to the bird's life style? 55

4 How many feathers does a hummingbird have? 57

5 How do birds keep their feathers so smooth and the wing feathers in perfect shape? 60

6 When do hummingbirds molt? 62

7 Are all hummingbirds brilliantly colored? 64

8 What are iridescent feathers? 66

9 If I find a hummingbird feather, what can it tell me? 67

4 Reproduction 69

1 How does a hummingbird attract a mate? 69

2 How do hummingbirds protect their mating territory? 71

3 Are hummingbirds monogamous? 73

4 How do hummingbirds reproduce? 74

5 Can hummingbirds of one species mate with those of another species? 74

6 How big is a hummingbird's egg? 75

7 How many young do hummingbirds have each year? 77

8 How long does it take for hummingbird eggs to hatch? 81

9 Do both hummingbird parents take care of the nest? 81

10 Why are hummingbird nests so hard to find? 82

11 How does a hummingbird female feed herself while incubating eggs? 82

12 How does a hummingbird female feed her nestlings and what do they eat? 83

13 How quickly do hummingbirds mature? 84

14 Will young hummingbirds return to a nest after they've left it? 86

5 Flight and Migration 87

1 How far can a hummingbird fly? 87

2 How are hummingbirds able to fly so far? 90

3 What tells a hummingbird when to migrate? 92

4 How do hummingbirds find their way during migration? 93

5 Do all hummingbirds migrate? 94

6 Dangers and Defenses 97

1 What are the natural predators of hummingbirds? 97

2 How do hummingbirds defend themselves and their food supply? 98

3 Do hummingbirds get sick? 99

4 Do hummingbirds get parasites? 102

5 How are flower mites dependent on hummingbirds? 103

6 What dangers do hummingbirds face in the environment? 103

7 What dangers do hummingbirds face from people? 105

8 How can I get a hummingbird safely out of my house if it has accidentally entered 106

7 Attracting and Feeding 108

1 Are hummingbirds friendly? 108

2 How can I attract hummingbirds to my garden or feeder? 109

3 Will hummingbirds feed only from red flowers? 110

4 What type of hummingbird feeder is best? 110

5 How do I make nectar to put in my hummingbird feeder? 113

6 Where is the best place to hang my hummingbird feeder? 114

7 How does a hummingbird find my feeder? 115

8 How can I discourage insects and animals from visiting my feeder? 115

9 Will my feeder interfere with hummingbirds' natural impulse to migrate? 119

10 Will a hummingbird return to my feeder the following year? 119

8 Identifying and Photographing 121

1 What is the best way to identify hummingbirds? 121

2 What features distinguish one hummingbird species from another? 124

3 How can I tell a male from a female hummingbird? 125

4 Where are the best places to see hummingbirds in the wild? 127

5 Why don't people keep caged hummingbirds as pets? 127

6 Why are there so few hummingbird exhibits in zoos and museums? 129

7 How can I photograph hummingbirds when they move so fast? 133

9 Research and Conservation 136

1 Are hummingbirds endangered? 136

2 Are hummingbirds valuable to the economy? 137

3 How do researchers capture hummingbirds for study? 138

4 What is bird banding? 141

5 Why do researchers band hummingbirds? 142

6 How can I become qualified to band hummingbirds? 145

7 What should I do if I see or rescue an injured hummingbird? 146

8 What can I do to help support the conservation and protection of hummingbird populations? 147


A Garden Plants That Attract Hummingbirds 149

B Some Places to See Live Hummingbirds in Exhibits or Gardens 153

C Hummingbird Organizations 159

D Recommended Reading and Web Sites 161

References 163

Index 179

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