Spring brings with it a real treat for US birders – the return of the 13 species of Hummingbirds that nest here. Growing up in NYC, I was able to see only 1, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, but I did not lament that fact at all. Like all of its relatives, this little gem never failed to put on an enthralling show when it stopped by. Read More »
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Hummingbirds have provided some of my most memorable bird-watching and bird-keeping experiences. While most birders are aware that they can be lured to special feeders, it is less well-known that there is also great interest in keeping hummingbirds in captivity.
Hummingbirds in Zoos
When I began working with hummingbirds in zoos, I was quite fearful that I would not be up to the task of caring for such obviously delicate little birds. While captives do have very specific requirements, I soon found out that these dynamos were surprisingly hardy.
With the ability to speed forward and backwards on wings that beat up to 78 times per second, hummingbirds seem to “know” that nothing can catch them. They are, therefore, quite bold. Anna’s hummingbirds were remarkable in this regard – approaching to within in a few inches of my face when I entered their exhibit, and very carefully travelling up and down my body from head to feet. Needing to consume at least half their weight in food each day, hummingbirds are always hungry and readily fed from nectar tubes that I held out to them.
Hummingbirds in Private Aviculture
Not surprisingly, serious aviculturists have long sought to keep these unique, brilliantly colored birds in captivity. Although none can be classified as simple to maintain, several species are well-established in private collections.
Of these, the sparkling violet-eared hummingbird (Colibri coruscans) is perhaps the best known. At 5 ½ inches, it is quite large for a hummer. Like all, however, it needs a large, spacious greenhouse or aviary in which to live, and must be supplied with live fruit flies and other tiny, flying insects (in addition to nectar) if it is to thrive.
Over 320 species of hummingbirds range from Alaska to the southern tip of South America. Thirteen species nest in the USA with only one, the ruby throated hummingbird, occurring east of the Mississippi River.
The easiest way for most of us to enjoy hummingbirds is to observe them in the wild. Fortunately, many take readily to hummingbird feeders stocked with specially formulated hummingbird nectar. Give hummingbird feeding a try – assuming they show up, you will not be disappointed.
You can learn more about hummingbird natural history at the web site of Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology.
Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Wolfgang Wander