Hum-Dingers

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 21, 2010

There are over 300 different kinds of hummingbirds. Most live in Central or South America, but about 17 kinds live in North America.

In Missouri, the most common hummingbird is the ruby-throated, although you may see others when they come through Missouri on north and south migrations.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is just under 4-inches long and weighs 3 grams, or slightly more than a dime. You could mail nine hummingbirds for the price of a single first-class stamp.

Male ruby-throated hummingbirds have special feathers on their throat, called a gorget (gore-jet). The gorget looks black in the shade, but when the sun shines on it, it turns a brilliant ruby red. It is used to impress and attract females. Both males and females have bright green backs and white breasts. Hummingbirds build a walnut-sized nest using soft plant fibers, moss and lichens (like-ins), all held together with spider web. Using spider web allows the nest to stretch, so it grows right along with the growing babies. A female hummingbird usually lays only two eggs, mostly because that's all there's room for in the tiny nest. Also, she would have a difficult time feeding more than two babies.

The eggs are about the size of the eraser on the end of a pencil, and newly hatched babies are about the size of a pea. They grow so quickly that they are ready to leave the nest when only 3 or 4 weeks old.

Hummingbirds have really long beaks and tongues. In fact, their tongues are twice as long as their beak. They use their tongues to reach deep into flowers to soak up the sweet liquid, called nectar. On an average day, a hummingbird will visit about 1,500 flowers. They will also eat tiny insects for protein. triangle

Make this simple hummingbird feeder

(Adult supervision may be necessary for some steps )

Inviting hummingbirds to your home is as simple as hanging a feeder. Put them where you can see them easily, but out of the sun and wind. Since hummingbirds spend a lot of their time perching, having shrubs, trees or flowers close by also will encourage them to visit your feeder. It helps to have more than one feeder, since one male will chase away all other hummingbirds from a single feeder, but he can't defend two or three at a time.

You will need:

  • Small glass jar with a screw-on cap (baby food jars work well)
  • Hammer and a 10

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