Hummingbirds are part of the great biodiversity of Mexico, a country that holds 12% of the world’s biodiversity. Here, hummingbirds live in a habitat that is excellent for them to inhabit. 57 species of hummingbirds are distributed throughout Mexican territory.
Hummingbirds in Mexico also have a history of ecological and cultural importance.
The origin of hummingbirds is not certain. It is thought that 22 million years ago they arrived in a new eco-system in the Americas.
Hummingbirds are small birds. They reach a size only up to 5.5 centimeters.
They are often brightly colored. Many species have iridescent, glittering colors and elaborately specialized feathers (usually only the males).
Hummingbirds are omnivores. Thy eat small insects, including mosquitoes.
Hummingbirds have compact, strong and muscled bodies, and long, bladelike wings that connect to the body from the shoulder joint. The architecture of their wings allows hummingbirds to fly forward, straight up and down, sideways, and backward. They can hover in front of flowers as they obtain nectar and insects.
The rate at which a hummingbird beats its wings is the same in all directions. The rate can vary depending on the size of the bird. Thus, small hummingbirds have extremely rapid rates in beating their wings. Hummingbirds can flap their wings up to 80 times per second.
Hummingbirds also possess amazing flight capacity. They can complete long migrations. The Cinnamon Buzzer, for example, flies from Alaska to southern Mexico.
Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and are the only pollinating birds in the world.
They have evolved over time. Their bills have evolved based on the flower and plant evolution. Scientists have found that new species of hummingbirds continue to show up.
Cultural Significance of Hummingbirds in Mexico
For pre-Hispanic cultures in Mexico the presence of hummingbirds was very important. They represented a symbol. They were seen as not only birds with brilliant plumage and peculiar flight, but also as representations of a mythological being.
For the Aztecs, one of the most important gods was Huitzilopochtli, the Sun God of war.
Huitzilin or Huitzil is the Nahuatl name for hummingbird. He wore in his plume the insignia of the hummingbird.
Huitzilopochtli was the one who traced the path for the Aztecs to the promised land. The Aztecs believed that the spirits of their warriors, fallen in battle, were accompanied by Huitzilopochtli. They traveled to the world of the dead and then fulminated as multicolored rays. These warriors reincarnated into hummingbirds.
The Aztecs also believed hummingbirds attracted good luck, due to their beauty.
The figure of Huitzilin is found in many objects, murals and codices of the Aztecs.
The Mayans also considered the hummingbird a special being. The hummingbird xts’unu’um was the representation of the connection between gods and men. The hummingbird communicated the wishes of the gods to the Mayans. The Mayans believed they were the last animals created and the ones in charge of carrying thoughts and desires from one place to another.
For the Mayans, hummingbirds were associated with wind, rain, and chaotic, unpredictable forces of nature.
In Mexico, hummingbirds continue to be an important part of the social, cultural, and artistic life of Mexicans. They are not just another bird, they are a part of the very heart of Mexican culture.
The places that hummingbirds inhabit, and in particular the plants on which they feed are threatened.
About 32 percent of all hummingbirds are considered at risk. In general, hummingbirds are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which lists species whose trade must be controlled to prevent extinction.
Among the hummingbirds located in the category of endangered species, are the Coqueta de Atoyac and the Mexican Earwig Hummingbird.
Did you know?
Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.
They bathe during flight by rubbing or sliding against wet leaves.
The color is produced by melanin pigments in feathers as well as by the refraction of light.
They consume daily twice their weight in food.
They visit between 2000 and 5000 flowers per day.
They can only perch.
Their colors blend in with the surroundings to keep them safe
The broad-tailed hummingbird (S. platycercus) breeds in Central America.
In Mexico, the hummingbird is known as colibri, chupamirtos or chuparrosas.