Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) range. Indeed, the smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm Bee Hummingbird. They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–80 times per second (depending on the species).
There are 112 species of hummingbirds in all of North America, with 26 species observed north of Mexico, 17 of these have bred in the United States and Canada, 12 of have been observed in California. Kern County is home to 4 breeding species and is visited each year by 2 migrants and on occasion by 2 vagrants.
While hummingbirds enjoy nectar from feeders and flowers, a large part of their diet is also made up of insects.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds normally place their nest on a branch of a deciduous or coniferous tree; however, these birds are accustomed to human habitation and have been known to nest on loops of chain, wire, and extension cords.
The extremely short legs of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird prevent it from walking or hopping. The best it can do is shuffle along a perch. Nevertheless, it scratches its head and neck by raising its foot up and over its wing.
A hummingbird can starve to death in as little as two hours, if still active. That makes rescue of birds trapped in garages or other enclosed areas, imperative within a short time.
The oldest historical mention of hummingbirds dates back to the Taino Native Americans, around the time of Columbus.
The Taino believe that hummingbirds are the spreaders of life on Earth, and their warriors were known as Colibir, or Hummingbird warriors,
because they are a peaceful bird that will defend their territory with the heart of an eagle.
Historically hummingbirds were killed for their feathers, today they face different but equally devastating threats.
Habitat loss and destruction are the hummingbird’s main threats.
Like other birds, hummingbirds communicate via visual displays. Hummingbirds are very territorial and have been observed chasing each other and even larger birds such as hawks away from their territories.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds winter in Mexico and Central America. To get there from their North American breeding grounds some birds embark on a marathon, nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. They may double their weight in preparation for this grueling journey.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds live in woodland areas, but also frequent gardens where flowering plants are plentiful. They hover to feed on flowers, nectar, and sap. During this floral feeding process, the birds pollinate many plants.