By Ali Holton
The Sunshine State is home to about 13 transient species of hummingbirds thanks to our year-round tropical climate. Also known as ‘flying jewels,’ these rainbow-colored birds are a delight to observe. Blink and you may miss them; these tiny birds are as fascinating as they are exotic and beautiful.
With wings that can beat 50 times per second and thousands of times a minute, hummingbirds are incredibly tiny, fast-moving birds who get their name from the humming noises made by their fast-flapping wings. Their wings move so quickly that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. These fast movements also allow the birds to easily move forward, backward and upside down in an instant while hovering mid-flight.
Most hummingbirds are under 3.5 inches long and weigh less than a penny. While most species are temporarily visiting as they migrate further south, hummingbirds can be found all over the state. Their average lifespan is three to five years.
The most common species of hummingbirds found here is the ruby-throated hummingbird. The ruby-throated hummingbird is a native and year-round resident due to our warm weather. They are highly adapted to living almost anywhere and can be seen in urban and suburban areas. Their habitat mainly includes meadows, woodlands, grasslands and gardens.
Hummingbirds are important pollinators with a diet consisting mostly of nectar and insects. They love sugar! Nectar is found in particular tubular plants and flowers, such as firebush, cross vine, coral honeysuckle, butterfly milkweed and Florida flame azalea.
Their uniquely adapted long beak and tongue allow them access to the sweet nectar in targeted plants. It is a myth that their beak acts as a straw; rather, their tongue is forked for lapping up nectar and consuming up to half of their body weight every day. Hummingbirds are most attracted to brightly colored, native plants that are red, orange and pink.
Because of their fast and active lifestyle, hummingbirds usually eat continuously throughout the day. In fact, they are so busy eating that they can visit over 100 flowering plants a day.
An easy way to attract hummingbirds to your yard and garden is to hang a specialized hummingbird feeder, which will hold a simple sugar-water mixture. Feeders will need to be safely cleaned very frequently. Be sure to research how to keep the feeder clean and to never use any coloring dyes, honey or brown sugar, which can be toxic to the birds.