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Hummingbirds of Ecuador, Small Wonders

Updated on January 15, 2011
Chestnut-breasted  Coronet (Boissonneaua matthewsii)
Chestnut-breasted Coronet (Boissonneaua matthewsii)

The hummingbird is a diminutive creature endemic to the Americas, the majority found in the neo-tropics. The English name is derived from the constant “hum” produced by the rapid beating of the wings. There are 339 known species with nearly 40% of those (132 species) found in Ecuador. Extraordinarily beautiful in color and intensely fascinating in flight, this miniature acrobat can mesmerize even the most apathetic individual.

Hummingbirds can flap their wings from 12-90 beats per second, depending on the species. They have the unusual ability to rotate their wings at the shoulder that enables them to not only fly forward but also hover and fly backward, the latter being exclusive to their family of avifauna. Hummingbirds can exceed speeds of 15 m/s or 54 km/h (34 mi/h), charging at intruders and stopping within inches of an interloper.

Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus)
Great Sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus)

The hummingbird is among the smallest of birds ranging from the miniscule Bee Hummingbird of Cuba at 5 cm (2 in.) to the Giant Hummingbird measuring a whopping 16.5 cm (6 ½ in.). The Amethyst Woodstar and the Short-tailed Woodstar of Ecuador are in contention for the smallest at 6 cm (2.4 in.).

With a few exceptions, hummingbirds are some of the most brilliantly decorated and intensely colored of all avian species. They glimmer with an iridescence that is produced by microscopic feather structure rather than pigmentation. This can result in problems with identification as well as photography since the wrong light angle can render these areas as black. However, in the proper illumination, there is no comparison to their beauty.

While in flight, hummingbirds exhibit the highest metabolism of all animal species. Their heart rates can reach an astounding 1,260 beats per minute. To maintain this constant need for energy, these small birds consume more than their own weight in nectar each day. Constantly visiting hundreds of flowers daily, they are only hours from starvation at any time. They can store just enough food to survive the night, and this is only accomplished by going into a hibernation state or torpor. However, nectar does not provide the protein needed to sustain life so the consumption of insects is necessary to maintain a balance. 

Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata)
Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata)

The bills of the hummingbird are long and narrow, varying in length depending on the species. Beaks can be as short as 11 mm (0.4 in) of the Blue-mantled Thornbill to the extraordinary length of the Sword-billed Hummingbird at 90 – 100 mm (3 ½ - 4 in.), almost exceeding its own body length. When feeding, the bill opens slightly as the tubular tongue slides into the flower to extract the nectar.

Hummingbirds are very territorial and can be extremely aggressive when protecting their feeding grounds. They will approach birds much larger than themselves and even confront humans who wander into their personal space. Looking eye to eye with an irate hummer can be a memorable experience.


With no hummingbirds native to Europe and only a few (16) inhabiting North America, this avian family can present a rewarding addition to any visit to the neo-tropics of the south. Most lodges and many restaurants place feeders on they premises to attract these diminutive creatures. This, in itself, draws many tourists to search for of these magnificent denizens of the tropics.


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    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thank you precy Anza. There are so many here that it is difficult to keep up with them.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 5 years ago from USA

      Those are beautiful photos of hummers! :) I love those tiny hummingbirds ^-^'

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks for the comments Sam. Yes, I just joined RedGage about a week ago. Looking forward to seeing your stuff in both places.

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 6 years ago from Tennessee

      voted up and beautiful! Very well written and interesting. My wife and I just started this year with a 'feeder' and enjoy the 'hummers' daily activity around it. Reading in your profile I see we share similarities in military service and also photography. Also noticed you on RedGage; welcome to HubPages...

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thank you Dumaka, they are fascinating to watch and there are so many different varieties. The problem is getting them to sit still for photos.

    • dumaka profile image

      dumaka 7 years ago

      Very nice introduction about hummingbirds. They are really beautiful birds.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thank you Gypsy, I will check out your hub. I appreciate your comments

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Lovely hub. We have many hummingbird visitors in our California garden and some in the summer up in the Sierras. I wrote a hub on humming bird gardens. Maybe you might like to read it.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thank you Shawn. I will do my best to live up to the accolades

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      This is a very well written hub with some great pictures. You are off to a great start on HubPages. I look forward to reading more of your hubs. Congrats on being a HubNugget winner!

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks Pamela, I appreciate the kind words. I have more hubs about hummingbirds to come.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Congratulations on your win. I love humming birds and always have a feeder for them in the warm moths, plus I plant flowers that attract them. I loved your hub and the beautiful pictures. The information was very interesting as well.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks NP. I will check out your hubs

    • NP.QUEEN profile image

      NP.QUEEN 7 years ago from Dubai

      Nice article and nice pictures.Thank u for sharing.Please try to go through my hubs also.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks Deborah, I appreciate the comments. Hope to continue with good hubs.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

      This is a well written hub, and I especially enjoy the pictures.

      Welcome to hubpages.


    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Appreciate the comments Ravi

    • profile image

      Ravi Mehta 7 years ago

      Nice birds

      Good pictures

      Nice contain

      I like this

      Thanks for sharing

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks -Elayne. Appreciate the feedback. I will be adding more hummers soon

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I love hummingbirds and these are so pretty. Thanks for sharing this informative hub. Congrats on your nomination and good luck.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks for the comment Ripplemaker. I enjoy photographing the birds here as much as I enjoy writing about them. Glad you enjoyed. I have many more birds to write about.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Such beautiful photos that I found myself stopping and staring at the picture - mesmerized. :)

      There are other things to be happy about too. Have you heard the news? Your hub has been nominated on the Hubnuggets, Pets and Animals Category. Do check it out:

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks Charlinex. With over 130 species of hummers down here I have a long way to go before I photograph them all.

    • profile image

      Charlinex 7 years ago

      Great bird photos. I voted the hub beautiful.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 7 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Thanks for the feedback. We have so many hummers down here that it is mind boggling at times. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    • bloggering profile image

      bloggering 7 years ago from Southern California

      Good article and welcome to HP! We have hummingbirds of different colors in our backyard in southern California and they are so fun to watch :-)


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