Hummingbirds are small birds best known for their ability to hover in mid air by rapidly flapping their wings and for being the only bird that can fly backwards. They are also capable of incredible speeds and have been known to fly at speeds faster than 55 km/h (34 mph). There are over 300 species of hummingbirds and these birds are only found in the Americas where they range from southern Alaska to the southernmost point of South America. Hummingbirds drink the sweet liquid inside flowers called nectar and also eat small insects and spiders. Many species of hummingbirds migrate in search for food and warmer weather.
When do hummingbirds migrate?
Most of the hummingbird species in North America are known to migrate. These birds migrate from Canada and the United States in fall to spend winter in Mexico or other parts of Central America. They return north in spring for the northern summer. There are also some species of hummingbirds in South America that migrate north to the tropical parts of the continent in winter. Remember that both species migrate for winter, but this occurs at opposite times of the year because of the difference in seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres!
A hummingbird will consume extra food to prepare for migration. Most species gain about 25-40% extra weight for the journey. Unlike some other birds, such as geese, hummingbirds migrate alone. The first thing that the birds do after arriving at their destination is begin to fatten up again!
Did you know?
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can take a 800 km (500 mi) to cross the Gulf of Mexico without stopping and this journey takes over 20 hours. This species of hummingbird prepares to migrate by storing up to 100% of its bodyweight in fat for the flight and this allows it to make this long journey.
A common rumor states that hummingbirds migrate on the backs of geese. This myth began with the early pilgrims and we now know that it is untrue.