Consider this: Critical Hummingbird Fuel.
Hummingbirds fuel themselves with liquid nectar (sugar). It provides critical energy for their strenuous flight activities and survival. During daily activities, Hummingbirds will typically drink nectar six or seven times each hour for about 30-60 seconds each time.
And this: Hummingbird Metabolism.
“Except for insects, hummingbirds while in flight have the highest metabolism of all animals – a necessity to support the rapid beating of their wings during hovering and fast forward flight. Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute, with a breathing rate of 250 breaths per minute, even at rest. During flight, oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue in a hummingbird is about 10 times higher than that measured in elite human athletes. Hummingbirds are rare among vertebrates in their ability to rapidly make use of ingested sugars to fuel energetically expensive hovering flight, powering up to 100% of their metabolic needs with the sugars they drink (in comparison, human athletes max out at around 30%). Hummingbirds can use newly ingested sugars to fuel hovering flight within 30–45 minutes of consumption.” (from Wikipedia)
Armed with the information above, please let me share a very special Hummingbird experience! Have you ever held a hummingbird in the palm of your hand? Well, I have! It was an honor, an amazing experience I will always remember.
A Hummingbird in My Palm
This event occurred in 1987, on a sunny Summer afternoon in beautiful Monterey, California. I first saw this hummingbird in flight as I walked into the Navy Exchange building on the campus of the Naval Postgraduate School. The poor little bird was flying in a large, counterclockwise pattern near the ceiling of the main shopping area. He was trapped in the building, unable to find the exit, and unable to find a source of critically needed energy (nectar/sugar).
I also noticed he was descending gradually, apparently making a smooth counterclockwise descent. Eventually, he touched the floor but slid across the polished surface, ending up right at my feet. He was lying there flat down on the floor with his wings extended straight out from his body, his beak on the floor, and his head facing me. I could see he was still alive and breathing, but apparently he did not have enough energy to fly.
I knew I had to get him outside where he might find some nectar. I carefully picked him up, holding him in my palm, and walked outside. I found a shaded area away from traffic and people and laid him gently on the ground next to a tree. Then, I returned to the Navy Exchange.
As I walked back, it occurred to me another animal might find him. Or, he may die from lack of food. So, I returned to the Hummingbird, gently picked him up again, and laid him inside a very small cardboard box (an empty single serving cereal box). I decided to take the little bird to my friends (the Bauers) who love and feed many hummingbirds.
At their home, the Bauers both met me at their front door, and we walked through to their backyard patio. They had a clear glass eyedropper which they filled with sugar nectar. While I held the tender little hummingbird in the open palm of my hand, they slipped the eyedropper over the bird’s long beak; and immediately, he began drinking the nectar. Through the glass of the eyedropper, I could see the hummingbird’s long beak and the tip of his little tongue lapping up the nectar. After about 30 seconds, he pulled his beak out of the eyedropper and sat up. He looked around for a moment, and then turned back to the eyedropper and resumed lapping up the nectar.
After another 15 or 20 seconds, the hummingbird sat up again, looked about for a few moments, and then flew straight up about 10 feet above us. He hovered there for a few moments and then flew off quickly. The Bauers and I just sat there in amazement. It was a sweet and rewarding experience.
But then, about 10 or 15 minutes later while we were still talking about this, the Hummingbird returned and began feeding at one of the feeders hanging on the Bauers’ porch, just a few feet away. We immediately recognized him because of the distinctive color and markings about his head and neck. It was the same Hummingbird. Based upon his markings and appearance, I believe my Hummingbird was of the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird species.
Note: “There are about 320 species of Hummingbirds (mostly in North, Central and South America). They are small, often brightly colored birds of the family ‘Trochiliformes.’ These birds often have brilliant, glittering colors and elaborately specialized markings (usually of the males only). About 12 species are found regularly in the United States and Canada. The northernmost hummingbird is the rufous, which breeds from southeastern Alaska to northern California. The Broad-Tailed Hummingbird breeds in the western United States and Central America and the Allen’s hummingbird breeds in the coastal regions of California.”
(Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.)
Final Thoughts: If you are interested in having a Hummingbird Feeder, please consider the following information concerning Natural and Artificial Hummingbird food and Feeders.
Are you interested in Hummingbird Feeders and Nectar?
In the wild, hummingbirds visit flowers to extract their natural source of nectar. This natural nectar is 55% sucrose, 24% glucose and 21% fructose. This is based on “dry matter” measurements (i.e., a representation of nutrients which ignores the moisture content of the food). Hummingbirds also take sugar-water from bird feeders. These artificial feeders allow people to observe and enjoy hummingbirds up close while providing the birds with a reliable source of energy, especially when flower blossoms are less abundant. A negative aspect of artificial feeders, however, is that the birds may seek less flower nectar for food, and thus reduce the amount of pollination their feeding naturally provides.
What is the Best Nectar to use in artificial Hummingbird Feeders?
White Granulated Sugar is the best sweetener to use in hummingbird feeders. A ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, or 25% concentration, is a common recipe (although hummingbirds will defend feeders more aggressively when sugar content is at 35%, indicating preference for nectar with higher sweetness and sugar content. (Please Note: Red food dye was once thought to be a favorable ingredient for homemade solutions, but it is unnecessary and some people speculate red dye could be bad for the birds. There is no point in adding it to the nectar. Commercial products sold as “hummingbird food” may also contain preservatives and/or artificial flavors as well as dyes which are unnecessary.)
What NOT to use in Hummingbird Feeders!
Organic and “raw” sugars contain iron which can be harmful to birds. Brown sugar, agave syrup, molasses, and artificial sweeteners also should not be used. Honey is made by bees from the nectar of flowers, but it is not good to use in feeders. Why? Because when diluted with water, micro-organisms easily grow in the Honey causing it to spoil rapidly. (Source: Wikipedia)
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