Outdoors Journal: Hummingbirds

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT
  • Updated: July 30, 2010 - 1:44 AM

The tiniest of all birds, hummingbirds are confined to the Western Hemisphere. Although it is a populous family with at least 300 species, most are tropical. Only 18 species are found north of the Mexican border. Members of this family have narrow, pointed wings that are operated by powerful muscles; their feet are tiny and weak, suitable only for perching, and their slender bills have brush-like tongues. These tongues can be extended and rolled into tubes for sucking nectar from flowers which, with tiny insects, are their principal food. All hummingbirds feed while hovering and also can fly backward. Their wing beats are so rapid they produce a humming sound.

Only one hummingbird species, the ruby-throat, nests east of the Rocky Mountains. This species is a summer resident in Minnesota. Bird banding records list a male ruby-throated hummingbird banded at Oklahoma City in August of 1964 which was recaptured at the same location 5 years later, so probably the hummingbirds we are seeing in our yards are birds that were here last summer or maybe several summers.

JIM GILBERT

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