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Hummingbirds: The jewels of nature

Posted April 02, 2014 in Advice Column, Ames

Hummingbirds are truly some of the most amazing creatures on earth. Only found in North, Central and South America, they are the smallest of all birds, yet with over 325 species, they are the second largest family of birds in the world. Of the 18 species found in North America, we find only the ruby-throated hummingbirds here.

On average they weight about 1/10th ounce, approximately the weight of a penny. Their nest is about the size of a golf ball. They do not have an innate preference for red. Rather, they learn to associate flower colors like red, purple and orange as a food source.

Hummingbirds can fly up to 60 mph, but typically 30-45 mph. Most comfortable in the air, they can hover and are the only birds able to fly backwards and upside-down. They use so much energy flying that they can eat double their weight in nectar and insects each day. Their wings beat 20-80 times per second. The iridescence in their feathers has led them to be called “jewels”.

The first hummingbirds usually arrive here around May 1. They are easy to attract by offering a nectar solution of four parts water and one part ordinary table sugar in a hummingbird feeder. Red coloring is not necessary, and has been found to be potentially harmful to the birds.  They are quite bold, so place your feeder close where you can see it to catch all the action.

Information provided Linda L. Thomas, owner, Wild Birds Unlimited, 213 Duff Ave., Ames, (515) 956-3145.

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