Larry CollinsWILD ABOUT BIRDSFree Press Birding Columnist

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April 26, 2012
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WILD ABOUT BIRDS: Are the hummingbirds back yet?

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Bird feeding enthusiasts are very excited because hummingbirds have been spotted throughout the area. These miniature marvels have been migrating between North and Central America for thousands of years, a round trip in which millions of hummingbirds instinctively participate.For the next few months, backyards around the area will play host to these amazing, food-frenzied birds. Hummingbirds possess the fastest metabolism of any animal on the planet, burning between one to two times their body weight in food every day.Despite popular belief, hummingbirds do not suck up nectar with their bills. They actually lap it up with their tongues, drawing nectar from its source up and into their mouths almost 12 times a second.Hummingbirds will head back to Mexico and Central America in late summer, early fall.Before you know it, they will be headed south once again. Then we'll have to wait almost six months for the hummingbird show to return.The following are some additional fun facts about hummingbirds:• They range from 2 to 8 inches in length.• Their average weight is 1/10 of an ounce (the same as a nickel).• Hummingbirds can only be found in North and South America.• Their brains are about the size of a BB.• Their legs are too weak to allow them to walk.• They are often eaten by Bull Frogs, Praying Mantis, and spiders.• There are more than 330 total species, but only 16 live in North America.• They can live in almost any habitat regardless of climate.• They are able to fly forward, backward, sideways, upside down, and can also hover.• They can go from perched to full speed instantly - the dragsters of the bird world.• Their aerobatic flying skills are enabled by unique flexible wing joints.• They eat once every 10 minutes.• They eat twice their body weight in nectar and insects every day.• Their bills can be easily damaged, are sensitive to touch, and are rich in blood supply.• The inside tips of both mandibles are toothed and serrated.• Pairs do not bond - females raise the young alone.• They return to the same nesting area each year.• It takes about 45 days to fledge each brood of young.• They usually have 2 broods a year.• The young leave their nest 18-23 days after hatching.• Only 20% of fledgling hummingbirds survive their first year.• Their nest is made of plant down glued together with spider web and tree sap.• Their nests are usually located on pencil-sized limbs.• They camouflage their nests with bits of lichen.• Banding studies show many hummingbirds pass through the same yards, on the same day, each year.• During migration, the hummingbirds seen at feeders one day are usually replaced by new birds the next day. • Hummingbirds leaf-bathe by fluttering against wet leaves.• They also "play" and bathe in sprinklers and misters.• Female hummingbirds have longer tongues than the males.-----------------------Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to and he'll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 26, 2012 09:44PM Published Apr 26, 2012 09:43PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.