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Fun facts about hummingbirds & where to see them

by Sabine
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About 1,900 bird species live in Colombia, compared to 500 in the Netherlands. That is the largest number in the world and more than Europe and North America combined. One of the most famous bird species found in Colombia and not in Europe is the hummingbird. A few weeks ago I traveled by myself to the village of San Francisco, near Bogotá. Here I visited a hummingbird garden where I got to enjoy this natural wonder for two hours. I shot 500 photos and learned a lot of new things about this special creature. In this article you will find a selection of the most beautiful photos of different species of hummingbirds and a lot of fun facts about my favorite bird! Let’s go!

The hummingbird: a speedy bird

The hummingbird forces huge amounts of nectar from flowers with its long beak. They desperately need that energy to stay aloft with their very fast wing beats of 60 to 90 beats per second. Because of this speed, the hummingbird is the only bird that can also fly backwards. They can even fly straight up and down, which is why they are sometimes called the helicopter among birds. During a diving flight, the hummingbird can travel 385 times its own body length per second. Just for comparison, a jet fighter achieves “only” 150 times. How amazing.

 

Where does the hummingbird live and how many species are there?

The hummingbird lives only in the Americas, all over the continent from Alaska to the southern tip of South America. However, most live in tropical zones, particularly in Colombia and Ecuador. You can find the bird in open places, in areas with lots of sunshine, in the desert, but they also live in the cold high mountains or in the tropical rainforest. Practically everywhere, in other words.

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds, over 150 of which live in Colombia. At the Hummingbird Garden in San Francisco, you’ll find more than 23 species. Each sugar water container is numbered, allowing the owner to tell exactly which kind is where.

The hummingbird garden
Different species of hummingbirds

 

15 facts about hummingbirds

  1. The hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird: the smallest weighs only 1.8 grams.
  2. They can’t smell.
  3. Their hearts beat between 500 and 1,200 times per minute.
  4. To survive, the hummingbird must consume more food each day than their body weight.
  5. That amounts to about 6,000 to 12,000 calories a day.
  6. A hummingbird cannot walk, only sit and fly.
  7. Their tongue is twice as long as the beak.
  8. At night, their body temperature drops from 30 to 21 degrees to conserve energy.
  9. The little bird has very little body fat and therefore relies on metabolism to stay warm.
  10. The hummingbird can live as long as 15 years.
  11. Sugar water can be used to supplement them. This is done in plastic red containers (you can see them in the photos).
  12. The opening of these feeders is so small that no insects can enter them, only the hummingbird’s beak.
  13. The bird continues to fly as usual when it rains, but can find less food as many flowers close.
  14. As a result, many hummingbirds die from lack of food when it rains persistently for more than a week.
  15. They lay two white eggs that hatch after 14 to 19 days. The mother feeds the young with nectar and insects for 3 to 4 weeks, up to 140 times a day. The father protects the nest.

 

What does the hummingbird have to do with diabetes?

Did you know that the hummingbird often appears in logos of diabetes-related institutions and websites? For example, in the logo of the International Diabetes Federation. The hummingbird was chosen for this purpose because it contains elements that diabetics also face, such as careful food intake. In addition, the hummingbird is the international symbol for diabetes scientific research. The hummingbird flying upward symbolizes growth and development in diabetes research.

 

Where in Colombia can you admire the hummingbird?

So many hummingbirds fly in Colombia that there is a pretty good chance you will see one during your visit. If you want to be sure to spot a hummingbird, go to (one of) these places:

But really, you can spot hummingbirds almost everywhere you go in Colombia. You have to have a little luck and a lot of patience. Especially if you want a nice photo, because as photogenic as this bird is, this speeding bird doesn’t exactly sit quietly!


The hummingbird: a small miracle. What is your favorite bird?


 

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