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Hummingbirds

This wee zippy bird moves so fast that you'll have to try hard to take a nice picture

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The world's smallest bird is one of the most amazing creatures on earth. Its name was given for the ability to "hum" while flapping its wings more than 150 strokes per second. These strokes create the "buzz" which resembles the sounds produced by a large bumblebee. Like no other birds, hummers can hover in the air and fly backward. You'll rarely find a seated hummingbird. Most of the time they fly from flower to flower searching for nectar. Each hummer boasts incredible coloring reminiscent of precious stones, and this bird's heart beats 1,250 times per minute during a flight, and 250 times in rest.

California has three endemic species of hummingbirds. Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) is the largest Californian hummingbird. Another common species is Allen's hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin), a coastal bird often spotted in Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Long Beach, and Catalina. The Costa's hummingbird (Calypte costae) occupies a desert area around Palm Springs and Palm Desert all year round.

Other species such as the black-chinned (Archilochus alexandri), rufous (Selasphorus rufus), calliope (Selasphorus calliope), and broad-tailed (Selasphorus platycercus) hummingbirds, migrate between Mexico and Canada across California. The migrators are seen in the Golden State between mid-February (when they start moving north) and early September (when they set off on the return journey south). The greatest variety of hummingbirds show up in Los Angeles from May to July.

Very often the hummingbirds fly into gardens of private houses and circle around flowers. The birds play an important role in nature—pollinating plants while collecting nectar. However, the hummers also feed on spiders and insects. You can attract a couple of these little guys to your backyard window by putting out a feeder filled with sugar water (one part sugar to four parts water). Just remember to clean and change your artificial nectar regularly, especially in warmer weather.

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