Hey Bird Guy! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with my daughter and I about hummingbirds when we visited your store. When we were driving home she asked me, “If hummingbirds migrate across the Gulf of Mexico, what do they eat since there aren’t any flowers for them to suck nectar from along the way?” I told her we’d ask you! -T.W. of Bloomingdale
Thanks for coming in! It was great meeting you both. You’ve asked a really good question. (My definition of a really good question is one I know the answer to.) Hummingbirds are truly amazing. They are also truly fast. So fast, that they don’t need to eat anything on their long flight across the Gulf. They eat like a hungry teenage boy just before they start the long journey. They typically leave early in the evening and can make it all the way by the following afternoon. When they arrive, they are not only very tired but also extremely hungry and need to stock up on the calories. (They’d eat a candy bar if they could but those bills don’t allow for that so they settle for nectar.) That’s a pretty impressive flight for a bird weighing only about 1/10 of an ounce.
Speaking of their bills, their tongues can actually extend outward even longer than the bill itself. They keep their tongues wrapped up in their skulls like a kids party favor then extend when necessary to retrieve nectar. I know it’s only a technicality, but they don’t actually suck nectar as the question suggests. Their tongues are not straws. Instead they lap up nectar. Those incredible tongues can make 13 laps per second! Try to move your tongue that fast.
Pretend your ice cream cone is melting. Let me guess, you got 4-5 laps per second, tops, right? I told you hummingbirds were fast. Here’s something else super fast about hummingbirds. At rest, their hearts beat about 250 times per minute. (As a comparison, human hearts at rest typically beas between 60-100 times per minute.) Think that’s fast? When hummingbirds are foraging or flying, their hearts speed up to as high as 1,250 beats per minute. (You thought your little brother was hyper.)