Well almost, barring the snow, but it is not impossible as we get snow in May on occasion as the hummingbirds come around the end of April or early May.
If they arrive early they have a couple of choices. One is to make use of sap-sucker holes drilled into trees, eat small insects, or most likely, go into a state of torpor.
This is explained here, and this is what they had to say, “To conserve energy, it can go into a sleep-like state known as “torpor.” During torpor, the tiny bird’s body temperature can drop by 50 degrees, the heart rate can slow from 500 beats per minute to fewer than 50, and breathing may even stop for a period of time. A hummingbird uses as much as 50 times for energy when awake than when torpid, but a torpid hummer can’t respond to emergencies.”
They are almost the little mailman of the sky flying in various weather. Like the mailman, they are very punctual arriving to their favorite feeding spots, at least from my own observational experience. I have reported previously how they arrive at the same time each day, a few times a day.
But what I never thought to look for, was them flying in the rain. And science shows how they do!
They must feed even in inclement weather. Their metabolism is so high and their wings flap at 45 to 50 times a second that this is a huge energy drain on the small creature. They will feed every ten minutes in good weather, maybe only once on nectar in foul weather. (source)
If you click the link, the video opens in a separate window.
In the short, high-speed video above, researchers subjected five male Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) to light, moderate, and heavy rain conditions in a controlled lab setting.
The researchers found that the hummingbirds were almost unaffected in hovering performance by the light and moderate rains and did not have much change in wing speed or body position when feeding. This is pretty remarkable for the tiny birds since they only weigh as much as a nickel. The rain should have, by the added weight alone, made a clear difference in their flight.
But when they increased the intensity of the lab rain, the birds flapped faster, flattened their tails and positioned their bodies to be perpendicular to the rain. This was unexpected because they were allowing more surface area to be pummeled by rain.
Additionally, rain adds an estimated 38% weight collectively to the bird. Rain impairs the flight of airplanes and it would make sense it would do something similar to impair a hummingbird. On aircraft, heavy rain increases drag, reduces lift, and increases the risk of stalling. Yet the hummingbird only reduced wing speed by 7% at moderate rain. They did not stall, lose altitude or lift. The little buggers kept flapping away.
What they found when observing them in slow motion flight, the altered body position may reduce the amount of drops hitting the bird’s wings, keeping the bird more stable in a hovering position.
They also found, “that the hummingbird’s water-resistant feathers absorbed 50% of the impact from the heavy falling drops, helping the animal stay light in flight, and in control no matter the weather.” (source) Amazing what you find when you just observe. If you want to read the scientific abstract see, Online ISSN: 1471-2954 | Copyright © The Royal Society 2012. (source)
I will be on the lookout next spring when they arrive at the end of April, rain or shine. To see hummingbirds in winter see, Southern Meadows, Winter Hummingbirds. It is a fascinating post on banding hummingbirds.
If you did not see my post… Photographing a Hummingbird in Flight – Useful Tips, it has more images of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. Here is their range. (source)
Next post? A Big Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all with my Christmas tree decor.