News Stories

Hummers Still Here

One sign of climate change is that birds fly south later in the fall, or migrate to new areas when it gets cold. Bird watchers on the East Coast have been amazed to find that hummingbirds are still around, even though most of the other birds in the area have flown south for the winter. "Twenty or 25 years ago, if you said you saw a hummingbird in November, people would be wondering if you had been tipping the sherry," says ornithologist Mary Gustafson.

Only 16 of the more than 320 known species of hummingbirds live in the U.S., and they travel more than 4,000 miles roundtrip in their migrations. Nobody could figure out exactly how their rapid wing movements worked until Crawford H. Greenewalt used strobe-flash technology to photograph them. Now we know they can hover, fly backwards, sideways or upside down and beat their wings at up to 3,000 times a minute.

The smallest hummingbird is the 2-inch-long Cuban Bee, which weighs seven one-hundredths of an ounce. Like other hummers, it?s fearless. "They are tiny, but they really are bad little dudes," says birdwatcher Bob Sargent. Male hummingbirds have been known to attack hawks and small pets and impale other hummers with their bills. The hummingbird was the Aztec god of war.

Gustafson says, "There's a saying that if hummingbirds were the size of hawks, we'd all run around in fear of our lives." Let?s hope these little guys are tough enough to survive the upcoming climate change.

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