On a beautiful late spring day, rufous hummingbirds swarm a large feeder. These hummingbirds spent the winter in the American South and migrate to Alaska for the spring and summer. Some travel as much as 8,000 miles in a yearly round-trip migration. A one-year-old female rufous hummingbird was banded in Florida in January of 2010, and was recaptured six months later in Prince William Sound - 3,530 miles away. But given the likely migration route - west from Florida to southern California, then north up the Pacific coast - the distance flown was likely closer to 4,300 miles.
Hummingbirds have excellent memories and remember the locations of feeders like this - or any reliable nectar source, like a salmonberry patch - year after year. They're also aggressively competitive, and fight and defend food sources.
Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, and the smallest warm-blooded animals on Earth. The smallest is the bee hummingbird found in Cuba - it's just two inches long and weighs less than a dime.
Hummingbirds have the fastest heartbeat and the fastest metabolism of any vertebrate. They can hover or move in any direction with precision, even in strong wind. The remarkable flying ability and metabolism is fueled mostly by flower nectar, but rufous hummingbirds also eat spiders and insects.