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The magical world of Hummingbirds... . Text and photos by Damon Calderwood www.damoncalderwood.com Most Hummingbirds exhibit sexual dimorphism: the male and female have very different plumage. While females often appear drab and nondescript like this female Black-chinned Hummingbird, ...

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The magical world of Hummingbirds...

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Text and photos by Damon Calderwood

www.damoncalderwood.com

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Most Hummingbirds exhibit sexual dimorphism: the male and female have very different plumage. While females often appear drab and nondescript like this female Black-chinned Hummingbird, ...
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...males can have spectacularly iridescent plumage. This male Black-chinned Hummingbird appears to have a purple gorget (throat patch) in the right light but gets his name because his gorget can also appear black when viewed from a different angle.
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Sometimes females have small traces of iridescence on their throats. This female Rufous Hummingbird shows just a bit of red at the right angle.
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Incredible aerial acrobats, Hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can hover and fly backwards. This female Black-chinned Hummingbird prepares to feed in an Arizona garden.
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Hummingbirds feed mainly on flowers, which provide them with the sugar-rich nectar they need to maintain their high metabolisms, but they will occasionally eat small insects and spiders for extra protein.
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Hummingbirds tend to be most attracted to flowers that are red, orange, or pink, but they will feed from a wide range of colored flowers.
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As a hummingbird approaches a flower it wishes to investigate, it is able to hover in front of the flower by turning its wings.
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The wings generate force during both the up and the down strokes of the wing beat cycle. These wing movements are unlike those of any other bird; the aerodynamic mechanisms of the movements actually resemble those of insects such as hawk moths.

The wings generate force during both the up and the down strokes of the wingbeat cycle. These wing movements are unlike those of any other bird; the aerodynamic mechanisms of the movements actually resemble those of insects such as hawk moths.

The wings generate force during both the up and the down strokes of the wingbeat cycle. These wing movements are unlike those of any other bird; the aerodynamic mechanisms of the movements actually resemble those of insects such as hawk moths.

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Hummingbirds are aided by an enlarged heart, which supplies the wings with the oxygen they need for flapping. Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute.
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While in flight, hummingbirds have the highest metabolisms of all vertebrates, a necessity in order to support the rapid beating of their wings.

Hummingbirds while in flight have the highest metabolism of all vertebrates, a necessity in order to support the rapid beating of their wings.

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At any point during the day, hummingbirds are only a few hours away from starving to death. In order to avoid starvation, they must consume at least their own body weight in nectar daily.
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Hummingbirds have many displays, often involving diving from great heights. A female Rufous Hummingbird flashes her tail here, showing brilliant colors hidden in her feathers.
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Perhaps a little surprisingly, up to 70% of a hummingbird’s time can be spent singing, preening, or sunbathing.
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When a hummingbird does take off from its perch, it can explode into flight in a millisecond, with wings that beat up to 70 times per second in the smallest hummingbirds.
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No other bird can approach the aerial gymnastics that hummingbirds are capable of doing. Nonetheless, hummingbirds are eaten by other birds, mammals, snakes, and even large spiders.
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Hummingbirds are active by day and can go into a state of torpor at night when they need to slow down their metabolism.

Hummingbirds are active by day, and can go into a state of torpor at night when they need to slow down their metabolism.
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Small mites often use hummingbirds as a means of transport between the plants they help to pollinate by hitching a ride on the hummer’s beak. A tiny mite can be seen here near the base of this female Rufous Hummingbird’s bill.
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Once his part in the mating ritual is done, the male concerns himself with maintaining his territory and driving off other rival males who might steal some of his food supply. This colorful male Broad-billed Hummingbird has staked out a very nutrient-rich area in a Portal, Arizona garden.
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One very practical reason for the female to be less conspicuous than the male is that she does all the nesting herself, rearing the young with no help from her mate. Her duller colors help her blend in with the surrounding foliage. This female Black-chinned Hummingbird has made her nest seven feet high in a small tree in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.
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During the nesting season, which can be as early as January for some southern species, males will often mate with several females. The females will do all the nest-building themselves, often nesting within a few dozen yards of each other, like this female Black-chinned Hummingbird in southeastern Arizona, who nested within 100 yards of six others.
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Hummingbird nests are about the size of a golf ball and are extremely well camouflaged. This nest of a Rufous Hummingbird in Chemainus, British Columbia is decorated with lichens bound together with spiders’ silk.
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Hummingbirds most commonly lay two eggs, which are smaller than jellybeans. When the young hatch after about sixteen days, they are dark, have no feathers, and can’t open their eyes.
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After a few days, the young open their eyes and begin to grow pinfeathers. They are fed primarily with regurgitated nectar, but occasionally the parent will add a few small insects and arachnids to the menu.
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The female hummingbird feeds her young every half-hour on average between her forays to feed on nectar at various flowers within her territory.

The female hummingbird feeds her young every half-hour on average between forays to feed on nectar at various flowers within her territory.

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Feeding young hummingbirds can resemble a sword-swallowing act, but the female knows just where to place her long bill so that the young are not injured.
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Some females will even start a new nest before their first one has fledged, alternating caring for young at the first nest while incubating eggs in the second.
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When the final chick is ready to leave, it perches on the edge of the nest and flaps its wings. When the time is right, it will land in a nearby tree. The empty nest is sometimes reused for a second brood.
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These beautiful little birds have been called jewels of the forest because of their spectacular iridescent plumage.
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You can help hummingbirds in your area by placing a feeder with sugar water in it in your yard. A great website to learn more information about feeding local hummingbirds is www.hummingbirdworld.com .
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If you are interested in more pictures of hummingbirds and other species of birds, you can purchase Flights of Fantasy at www.damoncalderwood.com . It makes a great gift for any birder or photographer!

Thank you for viewing the show!

www.damoncalderwood.com

Prints and digital files can be perused at

www.globalbirdphotos.com .