The Hummingbird family - Trochilidae - includes small birds, the size of which ranges from bumblebee to swallow. Traditionally considered as a suborder of the Trochili hummingbird of the swift squad. According to the Sibley-Alqvist taxonomy, hummingbirds are separated into an independent order. Hummingbirds are the smallest birds on Earth (5.7 cm in size and 1.6 g in weight). At the same time, there are hummingbirds of larger sizes (length up to 21.6 cm, weight up to 20 g).
The smallest species is a fly bird (Mellisuga minima), green above, white below, found in Jamaica and Haiti, the size of a bumblebee.
The largest species is a giant (gigantic) hummingbird (Patagona gigas (Vieillot, 1824)), with a straight long beak and a fork-shaped tail, a pale brown top with a green sheen, a reddish-brown bottom, with a gray-yellow uppertail, 21, 6 cm, found in most of the western countries of South America, it is also found at an altitude of 4000-5000 m. In the extreme south, it is a migratory bird.
Hummingbirds differ from other birds by a long thin beak, the upper half of which mainly encircles the lower one, the absence of bristles at the base of the beak, a long, deeply forked tongue that can protrude far from the mouth, long, sharp wings with 10, rarely 9, large flight feathers and only six very short, small, almost hidden under the coverts, weak, very small legs with long claws and completely unsuitable for walking.
The beak, which in one species, the sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera), is longer than the body, sometimes straight, sometimes arched, sometimes very strongly bent downward, in some upward. Feathers on the head often form various bunches, tufts. The wings are very strongly developed, with a very long brush, a less developed forearm and a short shoulder, and a large ridge on the sternum. The tail is very diverse in shape and consists of 10 feathers, except for the racket-tailed hummingbird (Loddigesia mirabilis), which has only four tail feathers.
The plumage of many hummingbirds is distinguished by extremely bright colors and metallic luster and is often very different from one sex to another in color, development, tail shape, etc. Males are generally brighter in color and are especially characterized by bizarre forms of tail and head feathers. Females are dimmer.
Hummingbirds are very mobile, perky and quarrelsome birds, displaying extreme courage in attacks on relatively large birds, especially during the period of hatching.
Their flight is extremely fast (up to 80 km / h), dexterous and maneuverable, reminiscent of the flight of hawk moths. In flight, small species emit buzzing wings, making up to 80 flaps per second. The movement of the wings is so fast that the outlines of their accomplishment merge, very often they keep motionless in front of the flowers by the rapid movement of their wings, like twilight butterflies. Large species are capable of doing only 8-10 strokes per second. Hummingbirds almost never descend to the ground.
A huge amount of energy spent by birds for flight and heat transfer is replenished with high-calorie food (for example, nectar).However, hummingbirds are not able to maintain an intensive metabolism around the clock, falling into a daze at night, in the cold and with a lack of food. At the same time, their body temperature decreases from 39-43 ° C to 14.5-21 ° C, and their metabolism slows down sharply.
Hummingbirds feed on flowers. Previously, it was believed that hummingbirds feed only on the nectar of flowers, sucking nectar on the fly, but in reality, the main, and for many, exclusive food, are small insects, which they get from flowers, and some from the surface of leaves. It was observed, in addition, that they seized insects stuck in a web of spiders, or caught flying insects.
The hummingbird's voice is mainly a faint chirp, but some, such as the smallest member of the family, the flybird (Mellisuga minima), sing.
Hummingbirds are polygamous.
Most species nest on trees, bushes, some species, like swifts, stick nests with saliva to rocks or leaves. Very skillfully they build nests from plant fluff, grass blades, etc., and attach lichens, moss, etc. to them. The nests are hung on the branches or ends of leaves. Only the female takes part in the construction of the nest.
Lay two white eggs, which are incubated by one female for 14-19 days. Chicks are naked, weak and helpless, they are also fed by one female.
Hummingbirds live wherever there are flowers - in deserts, gardens, forests and mountain meadows, including at an altitude of up to 4500 m above sea level (in the Andes).
The vast majority of hummingbirds are found in tropical South America, but in general they are not at all limited to tropical countries.The red-throated hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) in western North America reaches almost to Sitka, the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) in the eastern part to Canada and even Labrador, and in the south Sephanoides sephanoides lives on Tierra del Fuego to Cape Horn.
At the same time, many tropical species keep exclusively on high mountains outside the belt of woody vegetation, under the very line of eternal snow, especially the genus of mountain stars (Oreotrochilus): O. leucopleurus lives in the highest valleys of the Andes, the Chimboraz hummingbird (O. chimborazo) - on Chimborazo, on an altitude of 4000-5000 m, O. pichincha on Pichincha and Cotopaxi, etc. It is noteworthy that some species are limited to a very small area of distribution, for example, a famous peak.
Hummingbirds living in temperate countries, including the extreme northern and southern parts of the range, make correct flights for the winter. Species inhabiting desert areas fly away from deserts during drought periods. Species living in the mountains migrate up and down.
Previously, there were about 120 genera of hummingbirds, including from 319 to 340 and more (about 400) species, depending on the taxonomic point of view.
Currently, the family is divided into two subfamilies, which together include 105 genera:
* Phaethornithinae - includes 5 genera
* Trochilinae - includes 100 genera