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Nature | Hummingbirgs: Magic in the Air

High-definition, high-speed footage of hummingbirds in the wild helps viewers to understand the world of hummingbirds as never before.

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air

Hummingbirds represent one of nature’s most interesting paradoxes – they are the tiniest of birds, yet they qualify as some of the toughest and most energetic creatures on the planet.  New knowledge gained from scientists currently making great breakthroughs in hummingbird biology make this a perfect time to focus on these shimmering, flashing feathered jewels of the natural word.  Utilizing latest high-speed and infra-red camera technology, Nature takes viewers inside the extraordinary universe of these brilliant birds in Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air, Wednesday, May 29, 2013 on WMHT TV.  Combined with stunning cinematography and high-tech slow-motion footage of hummingbirds’ remarkable aerial abilities, the film captures the world of hummingbirds as we never have before.  Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham narrates. 

 “Hummingbirds live life in the fast lane,” said Fred Kaufman, Series Executive Producer.  “They’re not only visually striking but highly creative in their survival strategies.  That’s beauty and brains in one tiny package.  Nature always strives to bring viewers the most amazing natural phenomena on earth.  So get ready to be dazzled by these ballerinas in the air.”

The smallest of all warm-blooded creatures, hummingbirds live only in the Americas.  Many found in North America are seasonal migrants who can live up to 12 years.  With nearly 350 different species, these little Americans owe their genetic diversity to their unusual diet of nectar, extreme metabolism and incredible survival instincts.  They are ingenious adaptors and expert aerial predators.   Their ability to hover is unique in the avian world.  Other evolutionary engineering include the seemingly variety of bills naturally designed to hunt insects and to feed from complicated blossoms with secret nectar chambers.  It’s no wonder they are the essential pollinators for over 8000 plant species. 

To keep up with their high metabolism, these delicate diners need to eat voraciously – more than half their body weight every day, in nectar alone.  At night to conserve energy and to avoid starving in their sleep, hummers enter into torpor, a kind of hibernation in which the rate of their heartbeat slows down dramatically and their body temperature drops by more than half.

Beyond their unique eating and sleeping behaviors, male hummingbirds have elevated the art of speed dating with elaborate split-second courtship displays and twinkling flashes of iridescent feathers to entice females.    

Choosing a safe neighborhood takes on extra meaning when it comes to survival of a species.  Some hummers wisely nest near raptors that prey on hummingbird predators.  However, even their best survival strategies may not be enough.   Many species are now facing extinction due to loss of their habitat and food sources.  But not surprisingly, eco-tourism may be their saving grace.   People flock to wherever the delightful little dazzlers fly.  After all, who can resist the enchanting world of hummingbirds?   

Visit Nature Online (pbs.org/nature) to watch previous programs and get updates about the series.  Viewers can sound off about issues explored on Nature, take polls, and share animal photos with the Nature community.

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