Hummingbirds are a large group of colorful birds that live on the American continent. These small creatures can live in many different ecosystems, as they adapt well to their environment. In general, the life cycle of the hummingbird is usually not particularly complicated, but it still has impressive characteristic features.
The hummingbirds belong to the family Trochilidae , in which there are about 330 species. This group inhabits places as diverse as beaches, coasts, jungles, forests and mountains, as well as arid or urban environments. Read on to learn more about these beautiful birds and their way of life.
What is a hummingbird?
All hummingbirds are small birds that weigh between 2 and 24 grams and are characterized by the shape of the beak and their fascinating way of flapping their wings. Their feet are so small that they do not even allow them to walk on the ground, which means they spend most of their lives flying. Most of them also have a shimmering plumage that is extremely pleasing to the eye.
The members of this group are nectarivores, which means that they feed on the nectar of the flowers. For this reason, the beaks of hummingbirds are elongated and thin, otherwise they would not be able to drink the liquid. Thanks to this, they are also considered excellent pollinators, as they implant and transport pollen in connection with their meals.
These birds are distinguished by their extraordinary flying ability ; they can stay afloat in the air or fly in any direction. To achieve this feat, they need strong muscles with which they can flex 80 to 200 times per second. Thanks to this machinery, they reach speeds of between 50 and 90 kilometers per hour.
The ability to flax consumes large amounts of energy, which is why their metabolism has been adapted to this situation. The speed with which the hummingbirds process their food is so incredible that each individual animal must consume half its body weight in food per day. The rate at which it metabolizes food also means that it has a body temperature of almost 40 ° C.
Hummingbird life cycle: migration
Some species in this group show a migratory behavior where they cross large distances to reach warmer areas during the winter. These movements can be a big challenge for these birds, as they have to consume large amounts of food for the amount of energy they use. When spring comes, they fly back to their territories to begin their breeding.
An impressive example is the Rust hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus ), which travels about 3,500 kilometers from Alaska to southern Mexico. These journeys are possible thanks to the many stops it makes during the journey.
The males are usually quite aggressive and territorial, so when they return from their migration, they compete with other males to establish their territories. The male usually returns a week or two before the female to the breeding area to seize the best space and the largest amount of resources.
Courtship and mating
When the female returns from her migration in the spring, the mating season begins. During it, the male performs a startling and energetic courtship that consists of ascending and descending flights in a U-shape where the male shows off his plumage. In addition, it also performs vocalizations and flaps as quickly as possible to attract the attention of its potential partner.
The female, on the other hand, bases her choice on two main aspects: the male’s characteristics and the territory that the male possesses. It is important for the female to have a secure food supply (because her and the baby’s life depends on it), so she takes this issue very seriously.
In general , these small birds have polygamous matings, so the male usually has several reproductive partners. For this reason, most of the raising of the young and the construction of the nest is the task of the female, which is why she is so selective in choosing her partner.
Construction of the nest
Hummingbirds are egg-laying animals that use nests to incubate their eggs. These constructions are different in size depending on the species, but most are as small as a golf ball. To build them, the females use branches, leaves, cobwebs, lichens and mosses. They also choose the place of the nest (near the ground or high up in a tree).
Ovulation, incubation and rearing
The number of eggs that a hummingbird can lay varies between different species, but on average there are usually 2 eggs per nest. The incubation period varies between 18 to 20 days, during which the female stays in the nest for as long as possible.
The hummingbirds emerge from the eggs at the end of the incubation and it is at this time that the mother begins to feed them with nectar and insects. As with other birds, females feed their young through vomiting.
The chicks remain in the nest while their feathers grow and until they can fly, which can take about three weeks. The moment they learn to fly, the cubs start looking for their own food and begin to become independent. However, to ensure that they do not starve, the mother can continue to feed them during the first days outside the nest.
The life cycle of the adult hummingbird and its survival.
Once the adults have become independent, they leave their home and never return. A hummingbird’s first year is usually the most difficult in its life, as it encounters other large and strong creatures. Despite this, the probability of them dying once they leave the nest is quite small, because most deaths occur during incubation.
During the hummingbird’s life cycle, this animal must avoid a number of dangers that could lead to its death during the first months. Because of this, experts say that most hummingbirds die before they reach one year of age. However, the average lifespan of a hummingbird can be 6 or 7 years (or a maximum of 10 years).
Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the hectic life of these birds does not affect their quality of life. This shows that the adaptability of these birds is beyond our imagination and that they exhibit unique characteristics without any negative consequences. Despite its size, hummingbirds are without a doubt one of the most peculiar and beautiful birds in nature.