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— As summer winds down in the Ozarks, a common sight is an increase of hummingbirds that visit backyard feeders.

The tiny birds are in their migration process as they head to their winter homes in Mexico and Central America.

Hummers begin their return trip south after summering in northern states as well as locally. Those from the north often stop in this area for several days to replenish their energy storehouse before heading south and making a 500 mile flight over the Gulf of Mexico.

The birds are guided by an inner instinct, possibly by the length of daylight following their migratory pattern throughout the Midwest.

A hummingbird festival is held in mid-September each year in Holly Springs, MS, a stopping point for thousands of birds, the sponsors estimate.

A spokesperson for the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center at Holly Springsshared the following facts about the tiny creatures.

HUMMINGBIRD FACTS

Hummingbirds are the smallest of all birds, measuring between 2-8 inches.

A newborn hummingbird is about the size of a honeybee, their egg the size of a pea.

There are about 340 species of hummingbirds in the world, all in the western hemisphere.

Only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi River.

This tiny flyer manages to fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico - 500+ miles.

The Ruby-throat beats its wings 40-80 times a second and maintains an average flight speed of 30 mph. Escape speeds can reach 50 mph.

Hummingbirds are the only species of birds that can truly fly backwards.

Igor Sikorsky considered the exceptional hovering ability of hummingbirds when developing his pioneering designs for helicopters.

Hovering is the most expensive form of flight because of the energy consumed. A hummingbird has the highest measured rate of aerobic metabolism of any living thing.

Birds of all sizes have a better respiratory system than people because oxygen runs through their entire system of auxiliary air sacs and can enter and exit even by their toes.

Hummingbird body temperature ranges from 105° - 108° F.

A hummingbird lives a relatively short life of great intensity (9 years) while large creatures that move slowly (elephants, whales) live longer (60 years for wild elephants).

Eighty percent (80%) of all birds, including hummers, will not live to see their first birthday.

Leaving the feeder up until way past frost might provide a snack for a late hummer. And filling the feeder early might attract a scout seeking the area for a summer home.

News, Pages 9 on 09/23/2009

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