Hummingbirds and the rain

Hummingbirds are a highly diverse, brilliantly coloured and mesmerizing group of birds native to the Americas. There are known to be around 360 different species of hummingbirds across the North and South Americas, however, the density of these birds is quite high in the tropics around the equator.

They are known as hummingbirds owing to the humming sound created by their beating wings which flap at high frequencies. They hover in mid-air at rapid wing-flapping rates, which vary from around 12 beats per second in the largest species to around 80 per second in small hummingbirds. That’s amazing!

As per my understanding, this fast flight and beating of their wings take up much of these tiny birds’ energy, so they need to feed quite frequently. They are specialized for feeding on flower nectar, but all species also consume flying insects or spiders.

Some amazing evolutionary adaptations led to only specific hummingbirds being able to feed on the nectar of specific flowers. Since the food source is distinct, many different hummingbird species could co-exist in a specific region (like around 140 species in the Andes range).

Here’s the Sword-billed hummingbird, which incidentally holds the record among birds for the longest bill relative to body size. With its long bill, it can reach into larger, tubular flowers to feed, unlike most others with much shorter bills.

Sword-billed hummingbird

And here is the largest among hummingbirds, the Giant hummingbird.

Giant hummingbird

A hummingbird must consume approximately one-half of its weight in sugar daily and the average hummingbird feeds five to eight times per hour. This frequent need leads them to any source that could satisfy their requirement.

Thorntail female
Green Hermit

Hence their attraction towards feeders too, which are basically sugar water dispensers.

When you stand by a feeder, you will notice that these highly animated and active birds are constantly buzzing around trying to gain an opportunity to suck up some of the nectary liquid. There is also intense competition along with what seemed like an established hierarchy among the multitude of species competing for a spot at the feeder.

One of the days while in Ecuador, we were sitting by a feeder and watching the beautiful birdies buzz around. Being a cloud forest habitat, rain is an accepted and inevitable part of the landscape and as be it, it started to rain, quite heavily at first and soon mellowed down to a drizzle. When there is rain, the usual behaviour of most birds is to settle down in some safe, sheltered spot. Once the rain dies down, there is a sharp rise in activity.

However, with hummingbirds, it was different. The buzzing never ceased. They were in full flow: coming to the feeders, chasing each other, perching here and there, shrugging off the water droplets on their bodies etc.

The hummingbirds’ need to feed through the day is a powerful drive that keeps them going rain or shine and hence the rain didn’t seem to bother them even a bit.

As we nectared ourselves under the cover of a roof ( don’t get ideas :-), I meant a hot cup of coffee and tea, the hummingbirds were enjoying the nectary liquid being dispensed by the feeders.

The ambience was rendered beautiful by the rain and it was time to make some images.

Here are a few of them :

Violet-tailed Sylph
Violet-tailed Sylph
Violet-tailed Sylph
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Racket-tailed Puffleg
Racket-tailed Puffleg
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Rufous-tailed hummingbird

As the hummingbirds sat there preening themselves, they started showing off the brilliant palette of colours on their bodies. It was indeed a feast for our eyes!

Buff-tailed coronet
Buff-tailed coronet
Purple-bibbed Whitetip

Velvet-purple coronet

Some were stretching themselves into yoga poses :-)

Yoga pose...

While a few others seemed to be having sheer fun like the beautiful Violet-tailed sylph, here, showcasing its amazing moves while enjoying a drizzle.

It had been a long-time wish of mine to see these buzzing beauties. Hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed experiencing them and articulating that experience here.

You can find the full gallery of my images from Ecuador here - Ecuador-Dec-2022


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