Audubon launches hummingbird citizen science project

New mobile app to ID birds and the blooms that feed them
Apr 24, 2013

As flowers bloom earlier because of warming temperatures, scientists worry the impact on hummingbirds that rely on nectar could be severe.

The National Audubon Society has launched a new citizen science project to document hummingbird sightings across the country, using a free mobile app that identifies bird species as well as the plants that feed them.

Launched April 10, Hummingbirds at Home, welcomes observations each spring. The project joins Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count as part of a plan to grow citizen science programs year-round, and entice young people and non-birders to become stewards for nature.

“Every year, many hummingbird species make a remarkable journey north during springtime,” said Gary Langham, chief scientist for Audubon, “but will their arrival time be in sync with the blossoms?”

Langham said the new research will help Audubon focus its conservation efforts on where birds are most affected. Data will be shared with the Pollinator Partnership, which suggest pollinators such as birds, bees and bats “are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food,” he said.

Participants can get involved year round by making recommended changes to their local hummingbird habitats, plus take steps to stem the impact of climate change.

“Increasingly people are seeing the impact of climate change in their own backyards, from early blossoms to extreme weather,” Langham said. “This is a fun, family-friendly citizen science project that works in the classroom or in the kitchen.”

Goals of Hummingbirds at Home include:

• Teach scientific method to a variety of audiences.

• Engage families and classroom teachers.

• Deliver real, scientifically valid results that will focus conservation.

• Discover if feeders/non-native plants support hummingbirds at a level that native plants do not.

• Pinpoint where/when hummingbirds are most vulnerable due to a scarcity of nectar resources.

• Determine consequences of hummingbirds going extinct for pollination systems.

• Determine consequences on hummingbirds of some flowers going extinct.

Hummingbird fact sheet

• Hummingbirds are the smallest of all birds, measuring between 2-8 inches in length.

• A newborn hummingbird is about the size of a honeybee; an egg, the size of a small bean.

• There are about 340 species of hummingbirds in the world, all in the western hemisphere.

• Only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi River.

• Ruby-throats fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico – 500 plus miles.

• Ruby-throat beats its wings 40-80 times a second, and maintains an average flight speed of 30 mph. Escape speeds can reach 50 mph.

• Hummingbirds are the only species of birds that can truly fly backwards.

• Igor Sikorsky considered the exceptional hovering ability of hummingbirds when developing his pioneering designs for helicopters.

• Hovering is the most metabolically expensive form of flight because of the energy consumed. A hummingbird has the highest measured rate of aerobic metabolism of any living thing.

• Birds of all sizes have a more efficient respiratory system than humans, because oxygen runs through their entire system of auxiliary air sacs that maintains a constant flow to the lungs.

• Hummingbird body temperature ranges from 105°- 108°F

• A hummingbird lives a relatively short life of great intensity (nine years), while large creatures that move slowly (elephants, whales) live longer (60 years for wild elephant).

• Eighty percent of all birds, including hummingbirds, will not live to see their first birthday.

Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all.

The organization’s national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world.

For further information, contact Pilchuck Audubon Society at 425-252-0926 or visit

-Edited by Beacon staff

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