Why you never see a flock of hummingbirds and five other things I learned about teeny hummers from Noah Strycker’s “The Thing With Feathers”

According to Strycker, whose entertaining new book I reviewed recently for ScienceNews, hummingbirds generally lead solitary lives and are “stubbornly unsociable.” And they sure don’t go in for any mushy mute-swan mating-for-life hooey. They dispense with copulation in a jiffy and then females and males occupy separate territories thereafter. Now that you think about it, apart from seeing a couple-three slam-dancing around your nectar feeder, have you ever seen an actual flock? The thing with feathersHere are some other amazing facts I gleaned  from the “Hummingbird Wars” chapter: 1) The name of the Aztec god of war, Huitzilopochtli, comes from their word for these violent little birds. 2) Hummingbirds have some of the best names in ornithology: bronzy hermits; long-billed starthroats; violet-crowned wood-nymphs; white-necked jacobins. 3) Hummers have the largest brain size relative to body mass of any bird in the world. 4) Bee hummingbirds are so light–1.8 grams–that you could mail 16 of them for the price of a stamp. 5) “Hummingbirds routinely ingest more than their own weight in nectar each day, equal to somewhere between three and seven calories–the equivalent of a human eating a couple hundred pounds of hamburger between breakfast and dinner–and pass about 80 percent of it through their kidneys, as if you and I urinated twenty gallons a day!”

Photo: By Marcial4 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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