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Do Hummingbirds Hum?

Do Hummingbirds Hum? Fascinating Answers to Questions about Hummingbirds

George C. West and Carol A. Butler

Publication Year: 2010

Hummingbirds may be the smallest birds in the world, but they have the biggest appetites. Their wings flutter on average fifty to eighty times each second as they visit hundreds of flowers over the course of a day to sip the sweet nectar that sustains them. Their hearts beat nearly twelve hundred times a minute and their rapid breathing allows these amazing birds to sustain their unique manner of flight. They can hover in the air for prolonged periods, fly backwards using forceful wings that swivel at the shoulder, and dive at nearly two hundred miles per hour. Native only to the Americas, some hummingbirds have been known to migrate from Mexico to Alaska in the course of a season. Watching a hummingbird at a backyard feeder, we only see its glittering iridescent plumage and its long, narrow beak; its rapidly moving wings are a blur to our eyes.

These tiny, colorful birds have long fascinated birders, amateur naturalists, and gardeners. But, do they really hum?

In Do Hummingbirds Hum? George C. West, who has studied and banded over 13,500 hummingbirds in Arizona, and Carol A. Butler provide an overview of hummingbird biology for the general reader, and more detailed discussions of their morphology and behavior for those who want to fly beyond the basics. Enriched with beautiful and rare photography, including a section in vivid color, this engaging question and answer guide offers readers a wide range of information about these glorious pollinators as well as tips for attracting, photographing, and observing hummingbirds in the wild or in captivity..

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. xi-xiii

In the 1700s when an interest in nature often meant killing your subject, hummingbirds were skinned, stuffed, and studied. A variety of drawings and paintings based on their stuffed skins attempted to catalogue their fabulous variety, and their skins were made into amulets, articles of clothing, artificial flowers, and other ornaments so that people could possess their beauty...

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pp. xv-xvi

From GW: It was an honor to be selected as the coauthor of this book, which answers the many questions we are asked while operating a public hummingbird-banding station in Madera Canyon, Arizona. It was a pleasure working with a tireless coauthor, Carol Butler, in bringing this information to a public who enjoys one of nature’s masterpieces, the hummingbird...

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ONE: Hummingbird Basics

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pp. 1-18

Question 1: What is a hummingbird?
Answer: Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world. They are incredibly maneuverable, spectacularly fast-flying birds that are often brilliantly colored. Although they vary from species to species, most people think of them as tiny, iridescent birds with long bills and an amazing ability to hover. This describes some male hummingbirds, but many species are quite plain, as are the females of most species where...

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TWO: Systems and Senses

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pp. 19-49

Question 1: Are hummingbirds intelligent?
Answer: Hummingbirds are smart enough to have survived for millions of years, and if we take care of the earth, they will survive for millions more. Hummingbirds are well adapted to their environment. They know when to migrate, when to start nesting, and when it is time to return home. They know how to...

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THREE: Feathers and Bones

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pp. 50-68

Question 1: How fast does a hummingbird beat its wings?
Answer: To the human eye, anything over twelve wing beats per second appears simply as a blur, and hummingbird wing beats are definitely in the blur category. When the male Rubythroated Hummingbird is courting, its wing speed may accelerate up to two hundred beats per second during its aerial display. Although the rapid display occurs only briefly, this is said to be...

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FOUR: Reproduction

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pp. 69-86

Question 1: How does a hummingbird attract a mate?
Answer: Many hummingbird species are dimorphic, meaning that the male and female have different plumages, with the female generally being less colorful. The males use the bright, iridescent plumage on the gorget, crown, or front of their body to attract a mate. Many species have specially developed tail...

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FIVE: Flight and Migration

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pp. 87-96

Question 1: How far can a hummingbird fly?
Answer: The distance hummingbirds fly varies from species to species, and even among populations of the same species in different locales (see this chapter, Question 5: Do all hummingbirds migrate?). Some hummingbirds fly very long distances when they migrate, but learning the details about migratory patterns is challenging, since birds must be banded...

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SIX: Dangers and Defenses

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pp. 97-107

Question 1: What are the natural predators of hummingbirds?
Answer: For a human, a bite of hummingbird would not be very satisfying. But for some animals, a nice hummingbird, loaded with nectar and perhaps stuffed with fat before its migration, makes a hardy and nutritious meal. Although hummingbirds are tiny, most weighing only a few grams (a fraction of an ounce), they have many natural...

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SEVEN: Attracting and Feeding

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pp. 108-120

Question 1: Are hummingbirds friendly?
Answer: Hummingbirds are curious and may approach you when you are wearing bright-colored clothing, especially if the clothing is red or orange. They may even probe at you, believing that the clothing might be fl owers and a source of nectar. But they are not being “friendly,” which is a human term. When a wild animal approaches, it is usually...

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EIGHT: Identifying and Photgraphing

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pp. 121-135

Question 1: What is the best way to identify hummingbirds?
Answer: Knowing the names of the hummingbirds you are watching can increase the enjoyment of observing them and may lead you to ask questions and learn more about the species in the area. If you are living in or visiting the United States or Canada, your task is far easier because there are only around twenty common species in North America (see table 1). In Mexico...

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NINE: Research and Conservation

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pp. 136-148

Question 1: Are hummingbirds endangered?
Answer: More than 335 species of hummingbirds have been identified and described (see Chapter 1, Question 7: How many species of hummingbirds are there in the world?). Although the Endangered Species Act does not list any hummingbird in the United States as endangered, Birdlife International, an organization...

Appendix A: Garden Plants That Attract Hummingbirds

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pp. 149-152

Appendix B: Some Places to See Live Hummingbirds in Exhibits or Gardens

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pp. 153-157

Appendix C: Hummingbird Organizations

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pp. 159-160

Appendix D: Recommended Reading and Web Sties

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pp. 161-162


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pp. 164-178


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pp. 179-185

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813549286
E-ISBN-10: 0813549280
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813547381

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 50
Publication Year: 2010