Hummingbirds: A Beginner's Guide

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9781552093726: Hummingbirds: A Beginner's Guide

The hummingbird brings a whole new meaning to the word "unique." Boasting the smallest bird in the world, this family ranges in size from the two inch long bumblebee hummingbird to the giant hummingbird, which reaches a length of eight inches. The hummer's metabolism is as powerful as the engine of a high-performance race car, its heart pumping at a stunning 1,260 beats per minute to maintain a steamy body temperature of 105 degrees F. Its mighty chest muscles account for more than one third of its weight and allow it to flap disproportionately large wings at a dizzying 50 to 200 times per second. No wonder a hummingbird sighting in a backyard garden is cause for delighted celebration. In Hummingbirds: A Beginner's Guide, award-winning writer Laurel Aziz explores these details and many more, bringing to life this tiny force of nature. Hummingbirds is illustrated throughout with stunning full color photographs.

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About the Author:

Laurel Aziz is a frequent contributor to Canadian Geographic and Canadian Wildlife. She is also the coauthor, with Adrian Forsyth, of Animal Architecture and Exploring the World of Birds and the author of Decoys, Wildfowl Art and Yellowstone, all published by Firefly Books.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction
The Flower Kissers

It had been a long, hot summer, the kind you associate with the high-pitched buzz of cicadas breaking the still air. In early spring, I had scattered the seeds for nasturtiums, hollyhocks, snapdragons and poppies in my yard, hoping that at the peak of the growing season, the orange, yellow and red blooms would be a colorful lure to transient ruby-throated hummingbirds. Now, the eye-catching flowers had come into bloom, and I waited -- for weeks. I had nearly given up hope of having a hummingbird visitor in my yard when, early one morning, I heard the characteristic clicking and chirping as a tiny bird hovered at a nasturtium, flying forward and in reverse as it probed the flower for nectar. It had arrived in a flash and fed without disturbing a petal, and then it was gone.

Bird watching is one of North America's favorite outdoor pastimes, yet few members of the avian family create as much excitement as does a hummingbird when it pays a visit. Beautiful and delicate, pugnacious and tame, these fairylike birds with their rainbow-colored plumage can dive into your garden with little fanfare and instantaneously cast their magical spell. Their names evoke the splendor of their breed: berylline, brilliant, coquette, emerald, empress, magenta-throated woodstar, magnificent, mountain-gem, ruby-throated, rufous and scintillant, to name just a handful. And it is no exaggeration to suggest that with their burnished plummage and aerobatics, as they row the air in tight little figure eights, the dazzling hummingbirds are nothing short of mesmerizing.

Few of us will see more than the smallest fraction of the world's some 330 hummingbird species during our lives. Every encounter, however, treats us to the charm and mystery of the hummingbird world. In the following pages, we'll explore the hummer's intricate beauty and charm. The more you understand the nature of these birds -- where they live, how they feed, nest and breed -- the more rewarding you'll find the already delightful experience of meeting them face to face.

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