10 mind-blowing facts about hummingbirds from international photographer Matt Shetzer | SummitDaily.com

10 mind-blowing facts about hummingbirds from international photographer Matt Shetzer

Summit County photographer Matt Shetzer has traveled the world in search of amazing images, and some of his favorite subjects are the hummingbirds of Central and South America.

Shetzer has been photographing the birds for a decade now. He regularly travels to Costa Rica and Ecuador in search of these images and even has set routes that take him through a variety of elevations and climates, maximizing each opportunity in those countries.

While Shetzer often uses a flash — or eight of them — to create crystal clear images taken in up to 1/10,000th of a second, his goal is to produce photographs that people can't tell if he used a flash or not.

Presenting at the North Branch of the Summit County Library in Silverthorne on Friday, Shetzer showed off his work, talked about what it takes to get these photos and shared some stories of his travels, not just the hummingbird trips. Here are 10 fun facts he shared about the often aggressive, territorial, colorful little birds.

No. 1

In flight, hummingbirds can beat their wings up to 80 times per second, and make them go forward and backward, unlike other birds that fold their wings on the upstroke. This range of motion allows the bird to fly forward, backward, upside-down, hover or in a figure-8 motion that's unique to hummingbirds.

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No. 2

Think many hummingbirds have a nice paint job? That might be because many hummingbirds have highly iridescent feathers with more feathers per square inch than any other bird spices.

No. 3

Hummingbirds have the highest heart rate of any invertebrate, reaching speeds up to 1,200 beats per minute while in flight. That high speed is unsustainable, though, and the birds' heart rate drops to around 400 beats per minute when perched, which is how they spend 80 percent of their time.

No. 4

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds known to man. Of that, more than 120 can be found in Ecuador, 50 in Costa Rica, but only 12 in North America.

No. 5

Hummingbirds hibernate nightly. Well, the more accurate term referring to their evolutionary adaptation that allows them to conserve their energy is "torpor." It's a kind of deep sleep where the bird drops its heart rate to about 40 beats per minute and cools its body temperature to levels barely sufficient to maintain life. As a result, it takes hummingbirds about 30 minutes to get revved coming out of torpor. At this time, they're actually quite vulnerable to predators.

No. 6

Perhaps it's because of torpor, but hummingbirds are not the early birds. Early into his expeditions, Shetzer would get up early, set up with the sun and find he was the only one there. Photographing hummingbirds means he gets to sleep in, Shetzer says.

No. 7

Hummingbirds need to drink roughly their weight every day to survive. Sustaining their impressive wing speed isn't easy and it requires a lot of juice.

No. 8

The hummingbird is extremely territorial, will fight for its food sources and is often considered one of the most aggressive birds, if not the most aggressive altogether.

No. 9

At about 6 centimeters, the bee hummingbird is the smallest warm-blooded animal known to man.

No 10

Like humans, hummingbirds sometimes sneeze. It's actually quite cute captured in a photograph.

Feeder etiquette

For people who have hummingbird feeders, Matt Shetzer recommends they change the contents every couple days, and discard the water if gets cloudy at all. Also, feeders should be occasionally rinsed out or taken apart and put in a dishwasher. This is for the birds’ health, Shetzer says.

Additionally, Shetzer believes it’s best to bring the feeders inside after the flowers are gone because an artificial abundant food source late in the season could affect the hummingbirds’ migration.