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Hummingbirds and swifts

A Costa’s hummingbird hovers by a cactus flower while it sips nectar. Flowers are clustered at the tips of the plant’s stems,...Read More >>A Costa’s hummingbird hovers by a cactus flower while it sips nectar. Flowers are clustered at the tips of the plant’s stems, away from its prickles, so that they are easy to approach.Hummingbirds are small, colourful birds that hover in front of flowers while they drink nectar from them. Their tiny wings beat up to 80 times per second, enabling them to hover and even to fly sideways and backwards. Their wings beat so quickly that they make a humming sound similar to that of bees, after which they are named. Hummingbirds are the tiniest of all the birds, with the bee hummingbird of Cuba, about the size of a bumblebee, the smallest of all. Found only in the Americas, members of the hummingbird family are related to the swifts and tree swifts.


Sword-billed hummingbird, South America, 14 cm (5.5 in) long, not counting the 10 cm (4 in) bill. It is the only bird to have a...Read More >>Sword-billed hummingbird, South America, 14 cm (5.5 in) long, not counting the 10 cm (4 in) bill. It is the only bird to have a bill longer than the rest of its body. Its bill (and long tongue) allows it to feed on the nectar of flowers with deep, tubular petals.
{alt}Anna's hummingbird feeding{more}Click to play video

Feeding

Hummingbirds feed on nectar from flowers. One hummingbird may visit up to 1000 flowers a day. Because there are seldom any perches close to the flowers they depend on, the only way for the birds to reach them is by hovering. To do this, they must keep their wings very stiff and beat them very fast. Hummingbirds have very long, thin beaks to reach deep into flowers for their nectar. Some, such as the Costa's hummingbird, take all the water they need from the nectar of flowers, so they never need to drink.
 

The bee hummingbird of Cuba is the world's smallest bird. It is just 5.7 cm (2.2 inches) long.

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