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Hummingbirds of Ecuador, Small Wonders

Chestnut-breasted  Coronet (Boissonneaua matthewsii)

Chestnut-breasted Coronet (Boissonneaua matthewsii)

The hummingbird is a diminutive creature endemic to the Americas, the majority found in the neo-tropics. The English name is derived from the constant “hum” produced by the rapid beating of the wings. There are 339 known species with nearly 40% of those (132 species) found in Ecuador. Extraordinarily beautiful in color and intensely fascinating in flight, this miniature acrobat can mesmerize even the most apathetic individual.

Hummingbirds can flap their wings from 12-90 beats per second, depending on the species. They have the unusual ability to rotate their wings at the shoulder that enables them to not only fly forward but also hover and fly backward, the latter being exclusive to their family of avifauna. Hummingbirds can exceed speeds of 15 m/s or 54 km/h (34 mi/h), charging at intruders and stopping within inches of an interloper.

Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus)

Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus)

The hummingbird is among the smallest of birds ranging from the miniscule Bee Hummingbird of Cuba at 5 cm (2 in.) to the Giant Hummingbird measuring a whopping 16.5 cm (6 ½ in.). The Amethyst Woodstar and the Short-tailed Woodstar of Ecuador are in contention for the smallest at 6 cm (2.4 in.).

With a few exceptions, hummingbirds are some of the most brilliantly decorated and intensely colored of all avian species. They glimmer with an iridescence that is produced by microscopic feather structure rather than pigmentation. This can result in problems with identification as well as photography since the wrong light angle can render these areas as black. However, in the proper illumination, there is no comparison to their beauty.

While in flight, hummingbirds exhibit the highest metabolism of all animal species. Their heart rates can reach an astounding 1,260 beats per minute. To maintain this constant need for energy, these small birds consume more than their own weight in nectar each day. Constantly visiting hundreds of flowers daily, they are only hours from starvation at any time. They can store just enough food to survive the night, and this is only accomplished by going into a hibernation state or torpor. However, nectar does not provide the protein needed to sustain life so the consumption of insects is necessary to maintain a balance. 

Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata)

Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata)

The bills of the hummingbird are long and narrow, varying in length depending on the species. Beaks can be as short as 11 mm (0.4 in) of the Blue-mantled Thornbill to the extraordinary length of the Sword-billed Hummingbird at 90 – 100 mm (3 ½ - 4 in.), almost exceeding its own body length. When feeding, the bill opens slightly as the tubular tongue slides into the flower to extract the nectar.

Hummingbirds are very territorial and can be extremely aggressive when protecting their feeding grounds. They will approach birds much larger than themselves and even confront humans who wander into their personal space. Looking eye to eye with an irate hummer can be a memorable experience.


Conclusion

With no hummingbirds native to Europe and only a few (16) inhabiting North America, this avian family can present a rewarding addition to any visit to the neo-tropics of the south. Most lodges and many restaurants place feeders on they premises to attract these diminutive creatures. This, in itself, draws many tourists to search for of these magnificent denizens of the tropics.

Comments

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on September 20, 2012:

Thank you precy Anza. There are so many here that it is difficult to keep up with them.

precy anza from USA on September 16, 2012:

Those are beautiful photos of hummers! :) I love those tiny hummingbirds ^-^'

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on October 04, 2011:

Thanks for the comments Sam. Yes, I just joined RedGage about a week ago. Looking forward to seeing your stuff in both places.

Sam from Tennessee on October 04, 2011:

voted up and beautiful! Very well written and interesting. My wife and I just started this year with a 'feeder' and enjoy the 'hummers' daily activity around it. Reading in your profile I see we share similarities in military service and also photography. Also noticed you on RedGage; welcome to HubPages...

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on May 06, 2011:

Thank you Dumaka, they are fascinating to watch and there are so many different varieties. The problem is getting them to sit still for photos.

dumaka on May 06, 2011:

Very nice introduction about hummingbirds. They are really beautiful birds.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 20, 2011:

Thank you Gypsy, I will check out your hub. I appreciate your comments

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on January 20, 2011:

Lovely hub. We have many hummingbird visitors in our California garden and some in the summer up in the Sierras. I wrote a hub on humming bird gardens. Maybe you might like to read it.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 20, 2011:

Thank you Shawn. I will do my best to live up to the accolades

Shawn Scarborough from The Lone Star State on January 20, 2011:

This is a very well written hub with some great pictures. You are off to a great start on HubPages. I look forward to reading more of your hubs. Congrats on being a HubNugget winner!

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 19, 2011:

Thanks Pamela, I appreciate the kind words. I have more hubs about hummingbirds to come.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 19, 2011:

Congratulations on your win. I love humming birds and always have a feeder for them in the warm moths, plus I plant flowers that attract them. I loved your hub and the beautiful pictures. The information was very interesting as well.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 19, 2011:

Thanks NP. I will check out your hubs

NP.QUEEN from Dubai on January 19, 2011:

Nice article and nice pictures.Thank u for sharing.Please try to go through my hubs also.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 18, 2011:

Thanks Deborah, I appreciate the comments. Hope to continue with good hubs.

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 18, 2011:

Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

This is a well written hub, and I especially enjoy the pictures.

Welcome to hubpages.

Namaste.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 18, 2011:

Appreciate the comments Ravi

Ravi Mehta on January 18, 2011:

Nice birds

Good pictures

Nice contain

I like this

Thanks for sharing

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 16, 2011:

Thanks -Elayne. Appreciate the feedback. I will be adding more hummers soon

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on January 16, 2011:

I love hummingbirds and these are so pretty. Thanks for sharing this informative hub. Congrats on your nomination and good luck.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 14, 2011:

Thanks for the comment Ripplemaker. I enjoy photographing the birds here as much as I enjoy writing about them. Glad you enjoyed. I have many more birds to write about.

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on January 14, 2011:

Such beautiful photos that I found myself stopping and staring at the picture - mesmerized. :)

There are other things to be happy about too. Have you heard the news? Your hub has been nominated on the Hubnuggets, Pets and Animals Category. Do check it out: http://bit.ly/hv3VHi

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on January 01, 2011:

Thanks Charlinex. With over 130 species of hummers down here I have a long way to go before I photograph them all.

Charlinex on January 01, 2011:

Great bird photos. I voted the hub beautiful.

ColibriPhoto (author) from Quito, Ecuador on December 24, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback. We have so many hummers down here that it is mind boggling at times. Glad you enjoyed the article.

bloggering from Southern California on December 24, 2010:

Good article and welcome to HP! We have hummingbirds of different colors in our backyard in southern California and they are so fun to watch :-)

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