Naturalist John J. Audubon described the appearance of a hummingbird as a “glittering fragment of the rainbow.” Among the smallest of all birds, hummingbirds are noted for their dazzling plumage and remarkable maneuverability. They can fly straight up, sideways, backwards, or even hover like a helicopter. With 388 species, they are the largest family of nonpasserine (nonperching) birds in the New World. They range in size from the two-inch Cuban bee hummingbird to the 8.5 inch giant hummingbird of the Andes and are found from Alaska to the tip of South America, with most occurring in the tropics.
Connie Toops presents clear, well-researched chapters on almost every aspect of hummingbird behavior. She explains how they must sip nectar almost constantly to sustain their incredibly high metabolic rate. Their distinctive bills and hovering ability are well suited for feeding on long, tuberous flowers. They build tiny nests of spiderwebs and lichen, in which the female lays two pea-sized eggs.
There are eight native hummingbird species in the United States. Most are found in the Southwest, where seven additional species occasionally appear from Central America. Some migrate as much as 2,500 miles from their winter to summer homes. The Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona attract the greatest diversity of species, and have become a mecca for hummingbird lovers. Toops explains how to attract hummingbirds with backyard feeders and appropriate landscape plantings.
Beautifully illustrated with more than one hundred color photographs, HUMMINGBIRDS: JEWELS IN FLIGHT presents a comprehensive natural history of one of the most specialized and highly evolved birds.