WPS? What's that, you ask? My unofficial registry of speed, Wingbeats Per Second. And if you're still not quite sure of what being I'm describing, this fact will cinch it for you: it has a flight speed of up to 60 mph.
There are around 320 species of hummingbirds in the world, the majority of them calling home Central and South American tropics. About two dozen of these species range into the western United States, and primarily only one, the ruby-throated hummingbird, lives east of the Rockies. In the summer they breed throughout approximately the eastern half of the US and southern Canada and is the only hummingbird species that nests in Missouri.
This is after a non-stop flight from the east coast of Central America across the Gulf of Mexico, about a 500 mile journey that can reduce the bird's body weight by half. Some of them choose to follow the coastline and start showing up on the USA's Gulf Coast in late February. Here in the southwestern part of Missouri they show up in mid to late April. The males get here ahead of the females by 8 to 10 days, to check out nesting territories and seek out food sources before the gals arrive.
After a short courtship that involves the male making some high altitude U-shaped loops and a lot of diving, the pair get down to the business of making babies. The female does all the nest constructing, 15 to 20 feet above ground and the male takes off to let her do the rearing of their young. No permanent bond between this species of birds. Two white eggs the size of peanuts are laid in a nest the size of a walnut.
Just to see what they'd do with it, I set an orchid that my sister gave me for my birthday in a hanging basket a couple feet away from their feeder. In under five minutes, one of the flock spotted it, sucked up some nectar, then perched on the plant hanger and proceeded to fend off its other flight mates with the usual chirps, squeaks and dive bombings. mineminemine! it seemed to say. Didn't keep everyone else from arguing over it though.
I'll sure miss them when they're gone but have next April when they zip back into this country again.
Any sightings in your area?