Bird Fact Friday – How do hummingbirds accomplish their remarkably controlled flight?

From page 277 in The New Neotropical Companion:

The Booted Racket-tail. Photo by Nancy Norman.

Hummingbirds accomplish their remarkably controlled flight both by a unique rotation of their wings through an angle of 180° and by having an extremely high metabolism. Hummingbird heart rates reach 1,260 beats per minute, and some species beat their wings approximately 80 times per second. Hummingbird metabolisms require that the birds must eat many times per day to adequately fuel their tiny bodies. Suddenly appearing at a flower, its long bill and tongue reaching deep within the blossom to sip nectar, a bird will briefly hover, move to a different flower, hover, and zoom off. The best way to see hummingbirds well is to observe at a flowering tree or shrub with the sun to your back so that the metallic, iridescent reds, greens, and blues will glow.

The New Neotropical Companion
John Kricher
Chapter One

The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region’s ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.

The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function—everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region’s astonishing plant and animal life.

Bird Fact Friday – Nectar and fruit-eating specialists

Photo by James Adams

From page 144 in The New Neotropical Companion

There is year-round availability of nectar and fruit in the tropics. Nectar specialists include all the multiple hummingbird species as well as various flowerpiercers and some others. Fruit-eating specialists include cotingas, many tanagers, guans, curassows, and parrots. Add to those iguanas and other reptiles, scores of monkeys, and rodents such as agoutis and pacas, and you have a lot of fruit consumers. None of these groups can exist successfully outside of the tropics, since they are so dependent on constant availability of nectar and/or fruit. In the photo above, this Lovely Cotinga (Cotinga amabilis) approaches a fruiting tree. A species such as this, with its dependency on fruit, could not exist in the temperate zone.

The New Neotropical Companion
John Kricher
Chapter One

The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region’s ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.

The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function—everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region’s astonishing plant and animal life.

Bird Fact Friday – What makes hummingbirds special?

From page 50 of Bird Brain:

Hummingbirds in the Rocky Mountains have adapted to solve a difficult spatial problem. They feed on flower nectar, but each flower has a limited amount of nectar that only replenishes itself after a certain amount of time. Within a field of thousands of flowers of the same color, hummingbirds have to keep track of which flowers they have previously emptied and how long before they will be full again. They feed every ten to fifteen minutes, so keeping track of food stores is a constant task. Because of this, they have evolved a high level of spatial awareness—it is particularly impressive when you consider that the hummingbird brain is the size of a grain of rice.

Bird Brain
An Exploration of Avian Intelligence
Nathan Emery
With a foreword by Frans de Waal
Introduction

EmeryBirds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.

Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.

Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.