Sunday, June 7, 2009

June 7, 2009 - Hummingbirds


Here's an email a friend sent recently that tells of a rather amazing encounter with a Hummingbird. I thought it was worth sharing as encounters with these creatures are few, at least for me, and I can't help but be fascinated by them.

Katie wrote "The strangest thing just happened. I left my studio door open while going out to check the garden. When I came back, I heard a loud buzzing - there were two hummingbirds flying around the studio, looking for a way out. I opened the windows and shooed both out. Before I could get all the windows closed, one flew back in and plopped on the floor. I thought it was stunned. So I picked it up and carried it outside. When I looked closer, I saw that it had spider webs (from the studio walls) wrapped around it's wings. I brushed off one wing - it opened immediately and started fluttering in fast motion - then the other - and it flew away. I held a hummingbird in my hand. Amazing. What an incredibly alert, beautiful, iridescent bird. OK - my day is complete."

Out of curiosity I did some quick searches to find out more about Hummingbirds in general. Here's a few facts I didn't know:
• The largest Hummingbird is called, appropriately, Giant. They can have a wing span of 8 1/2" and they're found in South America. The smallest is called the Bee Hummingbird with a wingspan of 2". They are rare and found only in Cuba and the Isle of Youth.
Hummingbirds are the second largest family of birds in the Western Hemisphere.
• When hummingbirds sleep, they go into a hibernation-like state called Torpor. This is a really deep sleep. Their metabolism will lower to one-fifteenth (1/15) of normal. Their body temperature will drop to the point of becoming hypothermic (about 30 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius). Their heart rate will drop to about 50 beats per minute. Their breathing will slow to the point that it looks like they have stopped breathing. By sleeping like this, hummingbirds can save up to 60% of their available energy. It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for a hummingbird to fully recover from torpor. Once they are up and about, the first order of business is food. The hummingbirds will eat 25% of their daily intake as soon as they recover from torpor.
• A hummingbird's brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom.
• Hummingbirds can see ultraviolet light.
• Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.
• A hummingbird's metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant. (I was thinking that since a Hummingbird's perception is so sped up that the time the hummingbird was lying on the floor in Katie's studio must have seemed like ages to the bird)
Have a great week. m

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Hummingbirds do have a sense of smell, although not highly developed.
See http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Condor/files/issues/v084n02/p0237-p0238.pdf

Also, 20C is about 68F, still cold by warm blooded standards.

Count yourself lucky that you got to hold a hummingbird. Very cool!