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Male Ruby-Throated hummingbird (Archilochus co...Image via Wikipedia

Hummingbird Feeders - Important "must Know" Facts About Hummingbirds
By Steve Peek
Before you create a hummingbird habitat in your backyard, there are several important things you must know, and do, to attract these beautiful creatures and to protect them. The selection of a good hummingbird feeder, placement of the feeder, maintenance of the hummingbird feeder and choice of food can be critical, both to your enjoyment of the hummingbirds and to their survival. I will cover each of these points, but first, allow me to give you a little information about the hummingbirds themselves.

How many types of hummingbirds are there?

There are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world. About 925 of those species have been counted in the U. S. and Canada. Of all the birds living in our part of the world, few are as interesting, as fascinating, or as beautiful as the hummingbird. There are 16 species of hummingbirds breeding regularly in the United States and another half dozen Mexican or Caribbean species that have been reported here.

A typical North American hummingbird like the Rufous hummingbird measures between 3.5 to 4 inches and weighs in at about 3 grams (1/10 of an ounce). This makes him/her a heavyweight compared to the Bee hummingbird which is typically 2 inches long and normally weighs 1.8 grams (6/100 of an ounce). The Bee hummingbird is frequently mistaken for an insect by casual viewers.

How much do hummingbirds eat?

What is not small about hummingbirds is their appetite. Hummingbirds consume between 3 1/8 and 7 ½ calories a day. To put it into human terms, that equates to roughly 155,000 calories

per day. Just imagine pulling up to the drive-in window at McDonalds and ordering 278 Big Macs just to get you through the day.

Hummingbirds require this awesome intake of food because of their metabolism. The Ruby throated hummingbird, for example, is about 3 ½ inches long and weighs 1/8 of an ounce. His body temperature ranges between 105 degrees and 108 degrees, F. In flight, his wings beat an average of 52 times per second. His respiration is 250 breaths per minute and his heart rate is an incredible 1200 beats a minute when he is feeding. Hummingbird's lives are spent on the very edge of survival. One day of bad weather or difficulty finding food can mean the end for them.

How important is your hummingbird feeder?

With this information in mind you can see how important your backyard hummingbird feeder can be. The growth of cities and urban development is constantly reducing the hummingbird's natural habitat. A well designed, well placed feeder improves their chances of survival and provides you with countless hours of entertainment.

As small and fragile as hummingbirds are, they have surprisingly long life spans. Many hummingbirds do not survive their first year, but those that do, live an average of 3 to 4 years. One female broadtailed hummingbird was tagged, released, and recaptured 12 years later. A Rufous hummingbird was banded and reported alive after 8 years and 1 month. As these migratory birds tend to return year after year, they will soon become old friends that will provide hour after hour of viewing pleasure.

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