Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Most Benign Of Birds

You'd be resting, too, if you'd been beating your wings 50 times per second and consuming more than your weight every day in nectar. Native only to the Americas, hummingbirds are the only birds able to fly backwards and sustain hovering. They're also able, like bees, to gauge sugar percentages in nectar and routinely reject flowers that fall below 12%. They spend less than a fifth of their time feeding and mostly perch and watch the world.

The Anna is one of the few types of hummingbirds that does not migrate. Although capable of crossing 500 miles of open sea across the Gulf of Mexico nonstop, they prefer to stay put in Southern California and the local deserts year round. They lay their eggs two at a time, sometimes in nests no larger than a walnut shell. These gem colored iridescent beauties have been known to live as long as 17 years. They'll visit your garden faithfully if your plant salvias, penstemons and trumpet flowers.

The picture of a male Anna's hummingbird, taken locally this spring, is by California wildlife photographer Chris Mayne.

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