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Part of the Trochilidae family found only in the Americas. Unknown in the Eastern Hemisphere.
With 343 species, make up the Western Hemisphere's second largest family of birds.
Spanish explorers to the new world called them Joyas Volardores or flying jewels. English name derives from the characteristic hum made by their wings.
Flight speed can average 25-30 mph, and can dive up to 60 mph.
Built for power. 30% of weight consists of flight muscles.
Can rotate wings in a circle, allowing them to be only bird which can fly backwards and hover in space. Can move instantaneously in any direction. Can even fly short distances upside down. Can travel impressive distances. Ruby-throats, for example, make a 2,000 mile journey between Canada and Panama. The trip includes a non-stop, 500 mile flight over Gulf of Mexico.
Require a lot of energy. While in flight, have the highest metabolism of all animals.
Have fastest wing beats of any bird and heart beats up to 1,260 beats per minute.
In non-stop quest for fuel, may visit 1000 flower per day. Typically consume more than their weight in nectar each day.
For protein, eat spiders and gnats.
At any moment, only hours away from starving.
Have a unique way of keeping warm and conserving energy. At night, or any time they cannot get enough food to fuel themselves, they go into torpor (a state in which their metabolic rate is only one-fifteenth that of normal sleep).
Have weak feet and are more at ease using their wings even to shift in the nest or on a perch.
Like soap bubbles, their color comes from iridescence, not pigment. It winks on and off, depending on the light source and angle of the viewer. This allows them to flash or hide colors.
Their tiny brain (4.2% of its body weight) is proportionately the largest in the bird kingdom.
Do not mate for life.
Female raises young on her own. Males not involved. Females lay a clutch of only two white eggs and produce only one brood per season. Hatchlings remain in the nest for three weeks.
Average life span 3-4 years, but can live a decade or more.