New Mexico's Pet Resource EDITORS' PICKS


THE WILD SIDE

HUMMINGBIRDS: BEAUTY IS
ONLY THE BEGINNING

By Lynne Mann

When people talk about hummingbirds there always seems to be a fascination, wonderment and curiosity that no other "bird talk" ever contains.

The beauty of the jewel colors and the incredible aerial agility of these birds are greatly admired but those are only the beginning. I hope some of the following information will further amaze you and ensure a place in your heart for these efficient, fearless avian wonders.

Although the New World enjoys more than 300 species of hummingbirds, the US and Canada see only 18 species. New Mexico is fortunate to be able to see 13 species statewide. Santa Feans see four species commonly and at least three occasionally.

Hummingbirds can fly up to 65 mph, but average 25-30 mph. They beat their wings between 60-200 beats per second with a heartbeat between 500-1200 beats per minute. They can fly forward, backward, sideways and stop in midair. Hummingbirds fly as high as 200 feet and have been seen frequently at this elevation by our New Mexico balloonists. Even though they are the smallest birds in the world, their heart is larger in proportion to body size than any other warm blooded creature.

Migration is an awesome part of the hummingbird's life, with annual flights from 500 to 2,200 miles. This brings us to the mid-summer arrival of the Rufous (copper) hummingbird that is called "bully," "Red Baron," etc. This species makes a 2,200-mile migration and is constantly in search of food to survive, thus the "guarding" of your feeder upon its July arrival. When the air battles begin, give this tiny, long-distance flyer a break–put out another feeder away from the other–and enjoy the show!

Lynne Mann is owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe.

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 1999 issue.

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