Into The Air

The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

Category: Fun Facts

10 Fun Facts About Hummingbird Migration

It’s fall migration time!

Those in the North are saying bye to the hummingbirds; those down South are saying hello as they pass through; those in the West are saying “whatever” to the hummingbirds hanging around all year.

(If you happen to be reading this during spring migration, replace North and South in the last paragraph.)

To mark this occasion, we decided to assemble 10 of the most interesting hummingbird migration facts we could find for you. Take a look.

1. Hummingbirds live solitary lives and migrate by themselves. We often think of birds migrating in flocks, particularly geese, but that’s not always the case. Hummingbirds can be very territorial, so it only makes sense they make the journey alone.

2. Anna’s Hummingbirds aren’t the migrating type. Well, some do head to more favorable climates, but many of these hummingbirds will stay in the same spot for the whole year, especially those in California.

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3. Hummingbirds likely begin migration due to environmental changes. Many have theorized that it’s the drop in available food that encourages migration (which is why some people claim it’s not good to leave your hummingbird feeders out during the fall), but scientists no longer believe that’s the case. Instead, hummingbirds likely migrate due to the changing level and angle of the sunlight.

4. During migration, hummingbirds eat more than their weight in nectar and insects each day. With a heart rate of 1,200 beats per minute and an average of 53 wing beats per second(!), hummers expend tons of energy on their journeys. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can eat one to three times their weight in nectar and insects a day. Imagine eating three times your weight each day!

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5 Amazing Bird Migration Records

Autumn is here (technically) and that means fall migration is beginning. It’s the time of year when countless birds make the trek toward warmer temperatures. Birders everywhere are grabbing their binoculars to prepare for the smorgasbord of species passing through.

In honor of this fun and exciting occasion, we thought we’d share five of the most awesome and unbelievable bird migration accomplishments.

Highest Flying Migration – Bar-headed Goose

"Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"

“Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0”

Legend has it that the Bar-headed Goose has been spotted flying over the top of Mount Everest, which has a peak at about 29,000 ft.

Although the Everest fact hasn’t been verified, the highest recorded Bar-headed Goose has been tracked at a still dizzying 24,000 ft. Up at that altitude, there’s less than 10% of the oxygen found at sea level.

How do these geese fly at such high altitudes? Scientists say that the geese actually hug the mountain terrain to save energy. This saves energy, but it doesn’t explain the fact that they don’t need to acclimate or train for such an amazing feat of traveling over the top of the Himalayas.

Biologists hope to study their genetics some day to see what makes them tick.

Longest Migration – Arctic Tern

Image by Malene Thyssen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Image by Malene Thyssen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here’s a fact that will blow your mind: When added up over a lifetime, the total journey of an Arctic Tern is equivalent to more than three trips to the moon and back. Each year, Artic Terns migrate an average of 44,000 miles.

This annual migration from pole to pole is the longest migration of any bird. In fact, a 2013 study of a half a dozen Arctic Terns found the longest recorded migration was 57,000 miles, which is the longest of any animal.

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What Are Those Strangely Colored Birds at My Feeder?

Leucistic Brown-hooded Kingfisher photographed by Ian white

Leucistic Brown-hooded Kingfisher photographed by Ian white

Have you ever seen a strangely colored bird at your feeder? It might have been a Northern Cardinal with white spots or perhaps a yellow House Finch?

If so, you’re not alone. Every day people see birds with unusual plumage. So what’s wrong with these birds? Let’s find out.

Color Variants

Even though it might seem like something’s wrong with birds that look different in terms of color, there’s actually a fair amount of variation that goes on among species. Some bluebirds are simply bluer than others.

But when birds look drastically different with completely white heads or unusually dark feathers, many factors come into play, including genetic makeup, injury, and even diet.

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What Do You Call Baby Birds?

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We all love baby birds.

Those squeaky, cute little creatures are so helpless and adorable that you can’t help but stare and smile when you come across them. But when you rush to tell your family what you saw, what do you say? I saw three cute baby birds today? I saw a nest full of chicks today?

Most people know that a baby cow is called a calf and a baby cat is called a kitten, but what do we call baby birds.

Let’s find out.

General Terms

Chick: We’ll kick things off with probably the most frequently used term for a baby bird. A chick is used to mean any type of bird that’s still relatively young.

Hatchling: These next three terms have to do with baby birds at different ages. A hatchling is a bird that’s no more than a few days. They’re typically naked with closed eyes (though certain species are born with feathers).

Nestling: After a few days, a hatchling becomes a nestling. A nestling is usually covered in down (fine feathers that almost look like fur). It’s completely dependent on its parents for food and does not leave the nest.

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Awesome Bird Dads

Not all dads are created equal. In the world of birds, a dad’s involvement in the raising of its young and caring for the mother is vastly different species to species.

Male hummingbirds, for example, will give virtually no help when it comes to raising its young. The mother builds the nest and tends to the young while the father’s only task is to reproduce.

Even though male hummingbirds aren’t the most attentive fathers, there are many other species with awesome dads. Let’s take a look.

Peregrine Falcon

Falco_peregrinus_-Nova_Scotia,_Canada_-eating-8

The male Peregrine Falcon is a great partner when it comes to child-rearing. In many ways, males will share duties with the mother when he’s needed. The mother will do most of the incubating, but the male will also take a turn if the female needs a break or she wants to eat the food he brought her.

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10 Interesting Facts About Purple Martins

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With their amazing acrobatic movements, highly social behavior and boisterous chirps, Purple Martins are beloved and sought after backyard birds.

Even though you may have seen those tall Purple Martin houses everywhere (including possibly your own backyard), there’s a lot about Purple Martins you probably didn’t know. So, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most interesting facts about these beautiful swallows.

1. The tradition of putting up Purple Martin houses and plastic gourds is nothing new. In fact, it can be traced back centuries when Native Americans would hang real hollowed-out gourds to attract the birds either for the joy of watching Purple Martins or to keep insects away from their crops. This caused a shift in the Purple Martin housing behavior, which is why all Purple Martin colonies in the eastern parts of the US are dependent on man-made housing.

2. The Purple Martin is the largest swallow in North America.

3. Despite the widespread claim that a single Purple Martin eats 2,000 mosquitoes a day, it has been proven false. Purple Martins actually eat very few mosquitoes (if any) because they feed relatively high above the ground—well above where mosquitoes are prevalent.

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10 Interesting Facts About Blue Jays


As the colder weather begins arriving around the country, it means that many of the visiting birds have left for more temperate climates. That leaves us with the year-round birds that will stick around and visit our feeders no matter what.

Fewer year-round birds are more notable and recognizable than the Blue Jay. While you might dismiss it as just another ordinary bird, the Blue Jay is quite unique if you delve deeper. So, in honor of the beautiful bird, we’ve assembled some of the most interesting facts about Blue Jays.

1. Blue Jays aren’t actually blue. In fact, the pigment in their feathers is brown. Scattering light in the structural parts of the feathers causes us to see the blue coloration.

2. The oldest known wild Blue Jay lived to be at least 17 years 6 months, which is nearly two years older than the oldest recorded Northern Cardinal.

3. Many birds are adopted as the mascot of teams, and the Blue Jay is no exception. The Major League Baseball team in Toronto is the most famous team to use the bird as its mascot.

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7 Fun Facts About Turkeys

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo

Say what you will about the history or practice of Thanksgiving, but the turkey is intimately and undeniably tied to the holiday.

While many people are only familiar with one aspect of the turkey (re: taste), the Wild Turkey is an amazingly vigorous and unique bird.

Turkeys roost in trees

The turkey we’re all familiar with is the one that’s bred for its meat, but Wild Turkeys are actually quite agile. That’s why it’s not surprising to find turkeys staying in trees at night or even in the day. Turkeys can fly for short periods of time, which is how they get up there.

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10 Fun Facts About Cardinals You Didn’t Know

The Northern Cardinal is a perennial favorite of backyard birders because of its bright red colors, joyful songs and year-round presence. While those in its range might have become accustomed to these prominent birds, the birds should be marveled every day for so many reasons. Here are 10 interesting facts about Northern Cardinals you probably didn’t know.

1. Unlike many other songbirds in North America, both the male and female cardinals can sing. Usually, only a male songbird is capable of singing.

2. On a related note, when a female cardinal sings from the nest, it usually means she’s telling the male she needs more food.

3. The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia, which is more than any other bird.

4. It is also the mascot of prominent sports teams and schools, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Cardinals, University of Louisville and many more.

5. During the courtship process, male Northern Cardinals are known to exhibit affection toward females by feeding her beak-to-beak, like this picture from one of our Facebook fans. The tender display of affection is a sight to behold.

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