Quick as a hummingbird…she darts so eagerly, swiftly, sweetly dipping into the flowers of my heart. ~ James Oppenheim

….And these little birds did dip sweetly into my heart!!! Last December my husband, Steve and I spent a month in Ecuador. Five nights of our visit were spent in a wonderful, elegantly rustic lodge deep in the Cloud Forest of Region Andes. Those days for me were both exhausting and magnificent! I used to scoff a bit at hummingbird photography.  I like my big wading birds.  I now understand the draw to these tiny little avian gems. Their color, shimmer and shine is breathtaking in design. These diminutive creatures are both ethereal and stupefying in their acrobatic abilities.  

Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

For quite a while I had felt the need for a photographic challenge in the bird realm. I wanted to renew my enthusiasm and stretch my abilities.  Well, this trip to the Cloud Forest did it. Our adventure with Ecuadorian hummingbirds was both exciting and exotic. I came away feeling that I had truly grown artistically and in technical style.  I loved every minute of it. 

I went armed with my 100-400mm lens, my 500mm lens, two tripods, plus all the equipment necessary to do flash work. I studied a lot of images prior to our trip and while I have never cared to do flash work, I was open to the possibilities.  I experimented with it all and for obvious reasons, there is nothing simple about photographing these hummers.  Tiny, fast and furious! In the end, I decided that my favorite pictures were done with natural light and ISO numbers ranging from 800-3500. After hours and hours of processing I have finally gathered several of my favorites for folks to view.  Please enjoy and thanks so much for taking the time to do so!

Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

The following facts about hummingbirds come from UCDavis Veterinary Medicine, Hummingbird health and Conservation Program.

Natural History

  • More than 330 species of hummingbirds live in North and South America.
  • Only 5% of hummingbird species live primarily north of Mexico.
  • 95% of hummingbird species live primarily south of the United States.

Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Metabolism

  • Hummingbirds can enter a state of physical inactivity called torpor, in which the birds reduce their body temperature to conserve energy.
  • “adept at burning both glucose and fructose, which are the individual components of sugar; a unique trait other vertebrates cannot achieve.”
  • A hummingbird’s metabolism is about 100 times faster than an elephant’s!

Green Violetear, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Biology

  • A hummingbird has only a few taste buds and salivary glands in its mouth.
  • Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds in the world, and the bee hummingbird is by far the smallest at just one inch in length, weighing two grams.
  • Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.
  • Hummingbirds have more neck vertebra (14 or 15) as opposed to most mammals (7).
  • A hummingbird’s heart is relatively the largest of all animals at 2.5% of its body weight.
  • Hummingbirds’ legs and feet are small and weak, so they are used only for perching, not walking,
  • A hummingbird weighs less than a nickel, on average.
  • The iridescence of hummingbird feathers is a result of prism-like microstructures that fragment light into components of the spectrum, by a process of absorption and angle of light.
  • A hummingbird tongue is flat and split at the tip, bifurcated like a forked tongue. Each of the bifurcated flaps is edged with fringe, which makes the tip of tongue look like a feather. At rest, the flaps are rolled up in tubular shape and stuck together. When a hummingbird feeds, it picks fluid up by protracting the tongue, spreading the bifurcated tip, which opens out flat, gets covered with fluid, then brought back into the mouth.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Migration

  • When hummingbirds migrate to the United States in the springtime, they cover 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, flying for 20 hours without stopping.
  • In preparation for migration, a hummingbird will store half its body weight worth of fat.
  • Hummingbirds migrate alone and not in flocks.  Very commonly the males migrate first followed by the females.

Long-tailed Sylph, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Food Consumption

  • On an average day, a hummingbird will consume double its body weight.
  • A hummingbird drinks nectar by protracting and contracting its tongue around 13 times per second.
  • A hummingbird drinks nectar from hundreds of flowers, and eats thousands of tiny insects each day.
  • The edges of a hummingbird’s tongue are rolled inward to assist in bringing nectar and insects into the bird’s mouth.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Breeding and Reproduction

  • Only female hummingbirds build nests.
  • Female hummingbirds lay only two eggs.
  • The male hummingbird is not involved in raising young, and will often find another mate after the young are hatched.
  • Hummingbirds tend to return to the area where they were hatched.
  • After hatching, baby hummingbirds will stay in the nest for approximately three weeks.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Natural History

  • More than 330 species of hummingbirds live in North and South America.
  • Only 5% of hummingbird species live primarily north of Mexico.
  • 95% of hummingbird species live primarily south of the United States.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Dangers

  • Nearly 15% of hummingbird species are vulnerable to extinction.
  • It has been reported that very small hummingbirds have been caught in spider webs, stuck on thistles, and eaten by praying mantis, frogs, and dragonflies.
  • Hummingbirds are killed when striking windows.
  • Predators, such as cats, can catch and kill hummingbirds.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

Flight

  • The number of times a hummingbird’s wings beat is different from one species to another, and ranges from 720 to 5400 times per minute when hovering.
  • Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.
  • Some hummingbirds fly at speeds greater than 33 miles per hour.
  • A hummingbird’s wing beats take up so much energy, they spend the majority of their time resting on branches and twigs.
  • Hummingbirds got their name from the humming noise their wings make in flight.
  • Approximately 25-30% of a hummingbird’s bodyweight is flight muscle, as opposed to other birds, which average 15%.
  • Hummingbirds can fly in the rain and, like dogs, shake their heads to dispel drops of water. Unlike dogs, however, a hummingbird shakes its head violently, 132 times per second, and rotating 202 degrees—all while flying and maintaining direction!

Tourmaline Sunangel, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Buff-tailed Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Long-tailed Sylph and Speckled Hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Cloud Forest, Region Andes, Ecuador. Photograph Copyright Susan Dimock Photography

 

 I would love to hear from you!!! ~ Susan

 

 

The Photographer

About Susan Dimock

Susan Dimock is a retired clinical social worker and psychotherapist who quickly channeled her energy into a second career as a fine art nature and travel photographer. Based in Bandon, Oregon, she specializes in wildlife and seascape images of the coast where she and her husband have lived for 16 years. Her travel images of Oregon are seen throughout the world in print and in on-line publications... Read more

based in

Bandon, Oregon

General inquiry

susan@susandimock.com

Phone number

Tel: (541) 347-3610