Our front porch used to be an ugly enclosed room we used for storage when we moved here in 1990. In 2010 my husband restored it to its original state. Last winter we noticed a small glob of something that looked like brown grass clinging to a red bicycle hook we’d neglected to take down on the ceiling of the front porch. A hummingbird was continuously flitting around the red bicycle hook.
To our complete disbelief, a mother hummingbird was building her nest on the bicycle hook, right where we came in and out of the front door, about 10 inches above eye-level – a dangerous place to be. Anyone could reach it and/or knock it off the ceiling.
Within days she was sitting in the nest, looking happy as can be, but she would come and go throughout the day. I stood on a chair and looked in the nest and saw two very tiny eggs then immediately ran to my computer and googled hummingbirds. Here’s what I found:
- They are among the smallest birds, measuring 3 – 5 inches long.
- The can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12-90 times per second.
- They are the only group of birds that can fly backwards.
- Their English name derives from the “hum” made by the wing beats.
- They can fly at speeds exceeding 34 miles per hour.
- With the exception of insects, hummies while in flight have the highest metabolism of all animals, a necessity to support the rapid beating of their wings.
- Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute.
- They are always only hours away from starving to death since they are only able to store enough energy to survive overnight.
- They can slow down their metabolism at night or whenever food isn’t available and enter a hibernation-like state known as torpor, during which their heart rate slows to 50-80 beats per minute.
- They can live a decade or more, but the better-known North American species has an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years.
- Hummies are restricted to the Americas, from southern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
- The male hummingbird does not take part in the nesting.
The nest on our porch was about the size of a golf ball and was made of tiny twigs and spider web material. The two eggs incubated for about 3 weeks before two babies were born. They lived in the nest for another 3 weeks before the mother disappeared. The two baby hummies spent a day testing their wings while inside the nest then both departed within 24 hours of each other.