Thumb-Size Beauty

Hummingbirds Are Ready for Their Close Ups in a Gallery of Life-Size Images

A new book not only collects images of all the world's hummingbirds between two covers but shows them to you life size. Maybe not as stunning as hummingbirds in the wild, but at least they stay still long enough to be seen clearly.

Nick Athanas

Nick Athanas

Hummingbirds: A Life-Size Guide to Every Species by Michael Fogden and Marianne Tayloris almost as much fun as looking at an actual hummingbird, which is to say, quite a lot. And unlike real hummingbirds, these stay still long enough for you to get a good idea of what they actually look like. Natives of the western hemisphere, hummingbirds have been found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile. Most live less than a year, but if they survive that year, they can live to be 10. They'd rather fly than walk (they have weak feet), and they have extraordinary memories when it comes to food sources: they remember every flower they've visited and they know how long it will take for a flower to refill. Oddly, they have lousy senses of smell, although they can see and hear better than humans. 

Show here: the White-chinned Sapphire, found across most of the northern half of South America 

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Blossomcrown

Found only in a couple of places in Colombia, the Blossomcrown is a victim of habitat destruction. Usually seen alone, the males sometimes gather in small groups of five or six when they're courting.

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Amethyst Woodstar

The Amethyst Woodstar has a broad range across much of the top half of South America, and it is not endangered, although its numbers are apparently declining. It lives on forest edges and other semi-open areas, savanna, and scrubland. It's nests are small, cuplike, and built inside of bushes or low trees. It feeds on nectar and small insects.

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Black-backed Thornbill

Found only in Colombia, where its habitat is shrinking drastically, it is not endangered but it is considered uncommon and does have a declining population. Feeds on nectar, often by clinging to flowers, and occasionally eats insects and small spiders, catching them in flight.

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Purply-backed Thornbill

Scattered through Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia, this species also has a declining population stressed by habitat destruction. Typically, this bird is a trapliner, i.e., it has a "flight plan"in which it revisits a series of nectar sources.

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Rufous-vented Whitetip

Located mostly on the eastern slope of the Andes in Colombia and Ecuador, the species has suffered some decline but still has strong populations particularly in Clombia. It lives mostly in open forest and cloud forest. its name comes from the white tips at the ends of the male's central tail feathers, which are in sharp contrast to the bird's otherwise mostly glistening green.

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Gorgeted Woodstar

The males are distinguished by a patch of red violet at the the throat; the female is mostly bronze green on the upper-parts. A lone feeder, it frequently invades the territories of other birds, flying surreptitiously and feeding all the way to the top of the tree canopy. Its stable population is confined mostly to the Andean sections of northwestern South America.

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Sapphire-spangled Emerald

Various subspecies live in Brazil, Venezuala, and from Peru to Bolivia. The Brazilian subspecies is mgratory and clings to low altitudes; the others are more sedentary. The males are territorial, but all of this species are failry omnivorous about the plants they seek out for nectar, including non-native plants and garden plants on their menus.

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Emerald-bellied Puffleg

This small puffleg (imagine a bird wearing Uggs) lives in the cloud forest of northwestern South America. A loner, it does not play well with other hummingbirds at popular feeding sites. Diminishing habitat has put a dent in the population.

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Rainbow-bearded Thornbill

Native to Colombia, this thumb-sized beauty takes its name from its stunning iridescent throat (its multicolored crest is almost equally amazing. It dines on insects, catching flies on the wing,and clings to flowers, wings whirring away, while it feeds. Its population is waning, but much of its habitat lies inside protected areas.  

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Black Inca

Another Colombia native, the Black Inca--more deep purple than black--numbers anywhere between 3,500 and 15,000 individuals, so its decline is modwerate but not worrisome. A trapliner, it also likes insects and spiders when it's not hitting favorite flowers.