Are you ready administers the Heads fiction podcast team and. Yes, reaches this thrilling final season. And this coming from my dear child team, and by season four, no one is allowed up here, all listen and follow Team Bay on the radio, out Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, take me to to Monday. But now we wait till then.
Hi, I'm David Plouffe. And I'm Steve Schmidt. We're the host of Battleground, a new podcast from the recount.
In 2008, I ran Senator John McCain's campaign for president, David Manege. Senator Obama's in battleground.
We're going state by state and giving you in-depth reporting on the Trump and Biden strategies so that you understand what they're doing and more importantly, why they're doing it.
Listen, a battleground on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcast, welcome to Stuff.
You should know the production of NPR Radio's HowStuffWorks. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark and there is Charles W. Chuck Bright and Jerry's flitting around here. Here they're darting to and fro like a little ruby throated Honduran emerald. And this is stuff you should know. It's all Jerry. I know. I heard Jerry. That's our with my own two eyes.
How's she doing? Is their hair just completely white now?
Well, I mean, we were 15 feet away from each other, so I couldn't tell. What did you try squinting? I did.
And I shaved. So she didn't even recognize me. I know. I saw that picture made you look great. Yeah. Thanks. So nice.
It's just luxurious.
Well, the beard's coming back already, huh? From the second I shaved it, technically it started coming back. That is true.
Are you one of those people who say, like, yeah, from the moment we're born, we start dying now.
God hates people. I know they're the pits now.
Hunger on the back. And it was just a little just a little change of pace, you know.
That's good. Must have felt really weird. Uh, it does still feel pretty weird at times. Well, it's. Well, you four days later. Yeah. Yeah.
So, Chuck, I want to talk about something else that's weird besides the feeling of having just shaved off a beard after 15 million years, which, by the way, if you want to see that picture, you can go to the movie crush page on Facebook and see that. Absolutely. And they'll continue.
The weird thing I want to talk about today, Chuck, are hummingbird's a hummingbirds? Yes. So they are weird, but they're weird and all like the most delightful ways.
I love hummingbirds, love them, and I love them even more now that I know more about them. Yeah. Good eating.
You just grab them. The air snapped the wings off and pop like you think. A quail doesn't produce much meat hummingbird. Can have like 40 of those for dinner, at least that might just be an appetizer. Good luck catching them, though, right? They are hard to catch, but I have a story.
There is a hummingbird once that got into my house and it was freaking out, it was basically just smacking its head against the ceiling. Oh, I know. It was very sad. So I got a chair and I just held my hand up just right by it and it stopped freaking out and perched on my hand. I had a hummingbird perched motionless on my hand and it stayed there long enough for me to stick my hand out the window. And it flew off.
How many many how many years ago was this? That was a while back. I mean, were you a child? No, no, no, no.
I was a I was a man. I must have smelled great, too, because the hummingbird chose to trust me.
But I thought that was just one of the coolest things ever.
That's pretty amazing. A guy in our neighborhood yesterday got attacked by an owl. So that's on the other end of the bird human interaction spectrum.
Yeah, an owl or the jersey devil.
It really apparently it's not uncommon to get attacked by an owl. Yeah.
I mean, we've got a big one that makes an almost every evening fly over our backyard to the big forest behind our yard from across the street. And we love this thing. But I didn't know that. I didn't know that they attacked people like this. But it happened. Here is your neighbor talking rabbit.
I don't have a neighbor to where it goes. It's an empty house, so maybe that's why they like it.
So know who is attacked, though? Your neighbor, not a neighbor, but just assault on the neighborhood Facebook page. Some guy was attacked like the owl came down and talent his head.
It's crazy, isn't it? Can you imagine that? That killed. I wonder if the guy was like, oh, look, because owls are huge. I wonder if he's like, man, look at that thing. Hey, he's coming at me. And then all of a sudden you've got Talon's in your skull.
Oh, my God. All right, stop diverting attention from hummingbird's. Yeah. So hummingbird's. They are with the family. I had it, I had it earlier and it's really not hard to kill a day crookedly. Checkley trickily de chucklehead, a chokingly day, and they are related to the Swifts. Yeah, and, you know, hummingbird's, these are the little bitty fella's. Yeah, they weigh between two and 20 grams. They have those long pointy noses that they love to stick in flowers and they have these wings that and boy, when we get into the the fascinating facts about the hummingbird and those little wings, it gets pretty amazing.
But one of the things I'm going to go ahead and spoil from later in this, the stuff you put together was that what's so remarkable about about hummingbirds and how they fly is that they you know, usually when you see a bird fly, they flap down and that provides their lift hummingbirds like, no way, buddy.
You got to you got to get that thing working in both directions.
Double your pleasure up and down. That is how a hummingbird is able to hover and go in reverse and do all those crazy things, because it's not just flapping, it's flipping and flapping.
Yeah. They're the only vertebrate animal that can hover like a helicopter. It's like the blue thunder of birds when the Roy Scheider movie was a good one. I think I wasn't allowed to watch that because there's some sexy stuff in there.
There is that. Yeah, the blue thunder peeks in some windows, if you know what I mean. Yeah. And it came out at a time when I would watch movies with my mom and she was like, you need to leave the room. Yeah.
I don't think I was allowed to watch it at first either, but I think it might have snuck it. Oh, I see what you mean.
So one of the things that that makes hummingbird's so well known, aside from their incredible agility and being the only vertebrate that can hover in midair is just the look of them. Yeah, because if you've ever looked at a hummingbird from afar, you're like, oh, that things OK, it's just a kind of a normal looking bird. And then it just moves and catches the sunlight just right. Yeah. And all of a sudden this splash of metallic jewel like color just crosses its throat and chest.
And you say the hummingbird is truly great.
Yeah, it's amazing. It's sort of like the butterfly wings and that if you catch it at the right angle, you get that that metallic sort of shiny color. And it's and it's sort of for the same reason it's gorgeous, which is that that reflective stuff on the upper chest of the hummingbird. And like the throat area, it's not actual pigment. It is the structure. The physical structure of those feathers is a little air bubbles inside there that reflect that light, right?
Yeah. And I'm pretty sure we I mean, we did an episode on Butterfly Wing. Yeah. Iridescence. Yeah. And I'm pretty sure it is the exact same thing in butterfly wings as in that Gurjit that clutch of feathers and the humming. Pretty cool. Yeah. So it not only reflexive but also like bulks it up to pretty neat stuff. So man sorry. I guess I'm kind of phlegmy today. I don't know why but my apologies for being phlegmy.
That's all right. So one thing I didn't realize about hummingbirds is there's three hundred and thirty eight species that we know of and all of them are found in the Americas.
Did you know that? I don't think I did.
But they were found like all throughout the Americas from Chile, all the way up to southern Alaska and Canada. They've got a pretty wide range. But the thing is, the things are so small, so tiny and so unable to maintain a decent body temperature that they basically follow the summer. When they migrate. Yeah, and they all diverged from a single common ancestor about 22 million years ago in the kind of the cool thing is that they keep changing and their rate of speciation is really pretty incredible.
It's supposedly going to outpace their rate of extinction. And we're going to see well, we won't see it because we'll be dead in the next 40 years.
But but human beings, if we're still around, that is are going to see the number of species of hummingbird double to what we have today. But it's going to be a few million years, so don't expect that anytime soon.
Yeah, but it is pretty cool just to think that, you know, they're still in the midst of their evolutionary history and like right in the middle of it, you know. Yeah, totally. I like that about them. So, you know, being that multi varied species all the way from Patagonia up to Alaska, they have learned to adapt to a bunch of different niches and habitats. Right. So you can find hummingbird species in like sub sea level deserts.
You can find them up in the Andes. There's actually a lot of different species that live in the Andes Mountains. You can find the bulk of them in tropical forests around the tropics of the new world. Um, and they they've adapted like really well to their different environments. Some migrate, some don't. Um, but all of them are very tiny.
Yeah. They're cute little little things. As if you look up a picture of the bee hummingbird, just prepare for the cutest little I mean it looks like it looks fake.
Yeah, you know, it doesn't look like a bird could actually be that small without becoming an insect. It's going to just collapse in insect form. But look it up online. The little bee hummingbird from Cuba weighs about one point nine five grams. Mm hmm. We don't get those here in Georgia. The only kind and I think how many species are there in the United States? About 17 or 18. Yeah, that's what I saw. But only that Ruby Throated is the one that we're going to get here on the East Coast.
Yeah. And just to go like to double that up, man, one point nine five grams. Somebody did the math and you could mail 14 of those things with one postage stamp in the United States, just smash them down flat.
There's not there's not a single species of hummingbird that breaks an ounce in weight, which is to say that the largest hummingbird species there is the giant hummingbird, which is kind of a contradiction in terms. It's still smaller than an Atlantic canary.
Wow, the giant hummingbird is still canary sized. So there's a very tiny group of birds.
Well, and this is the step that gets me. This is the one I texted Emily, because we love our hummingbirds like all normal humans. Sure. The eggs of the ruby throated hummingbird that we have here in Georgia are the size of a pea.
Can you believe that? Did you look up there, their nests, pictures of their nest? Oh, yeah, they're gorgeous. It looks like something you'd buy on Etsy. Yeah, they look kind of like made of felt because hummingbirds use spider silk. They take old spider webs and use them as thread to weave like their nests, along with plant fibers and leaves and twigs to give it kind of this spongy, velvety super khush feel for their little baby's velvety mouthfeel.
So we're going to talk a lot about the hummingbird flying. And because it's pretty remarkable, it's one of the most remarkable things in nature. Like I think it's right up there with, like, the chromatophores of the octopus. And I was about to spoil our live show, but maybe I should. Are we ever going to be on stage again?
I don't know. But let's just hold on to it just in case. All right. We're going to keep that in our back pocket.
Yeah, but the wings, the wing muscles of a hummingbird account to about 25 to 30 percent of its total body weight. So this thing is all like it. It never has legs day at the gym. It's always doing upper body. And the legs are tiny and weak and they really don't walk. I mean, they can perch, but if you see a hummingbird, they're going to be moving. If you notice, you never see a hummingbird just kind of strolling around and you're on your deck or something.
Yeah, they kind of have legs similar to David Cross' character in that Titanic asking for Mr. Shika, do you remember? I do.
So he's kind of hummingbird like in that respect.
But yeah, if your legs are that we can your wings are that strong, you're going to spend most of your time in midair. And they basically do, although they do, you know, they nest on branches, they sleep on branches, they do perch. They made on branches as we'll see perch on your finger, apparently the palm of your hand.
Oh, those palm of your hand. It was the palm of my hand. Yeah. I gave it plenty of space. OK, I got you. And then they also sometimes will sleep upside down, just kind of dangling from a twig or something with their spindly little legs like a bat. Oh wow. Yeah. So the, the just some amazing stats about their, their ability to fly. Like we said, they're the only vertebrate they can hover in place.
They could also fly upside down backward. They're real shelfs. They really are big time show offs. They can get up to speeds of more than 45 miles per hour.
God knows how many kilometers per hour that is light on some of their dives. But even like an average speed for them of just flying around, you know, where they're not just, you know, going from Florida forward, but they're like traveling from place to place is, you know, thirty plus miles an hour. That's pretty impressive.
No, it's super impressive. And if you think, man a, how fast are those little things going and B what is there a little cardiovascular system doing it. It's doing exactly what you think it is. They have their heartbeats about two hundred and twenty five times per minute when it's hanging out and doing nothing. Right about twelve hundred times a minute when it's flying and those wings range from seventy up and down strokes per second. Or I wonder if that's all that counts as one or two.
And I was wondering that myself, and I'm not sure that that is answered at the very least, we're not going to answer because we don't have that answer.
Well, how about it doesn't matter, because either way, it's a ton. It's either it's 70 times per second when they're just flying normally around to get some some good, sweet stuff. But that courtship died, which we're going to talk about a little later that you mentioned about 200 times per second. Those wings are flapping.
Yeah. And I actually know that you say it. If they're kind of doubling up what a flap is, then maybe hummingbirds aren't so impressive after all, lazies.
So, Chuck, when you're flapping your wings one hundred or two hundred times per second, depending on whether you're counting the upbeats in the downbeats as a single flap or not, um, you need, like, a lot of energy to do that.
And as a result, the hummingbird typically eats about two to three times its own weight and food every day.
Yeah, like if that was a human, you would let me see here. It's the equivalent of about two hundred and eighty five pounds of hamburger.
Hmm. Is that and three hundred and seventy pounds of potatoes. No, I think each of these. OK, so take your pick. If you want to eat just hamburger it would be two hundred and eighty five pounds a day. That's a whole cow. That's the I think a little bit. I think I was way more than that but. Right. Well but as far as usable beef, I don't know. There you go. I'm sorry for any vegetarians out there by me saying usable beef.
That's a wrench in your mouth.
Maybe it's an album name. Now that I think about usable beef made by the band. What, jungle x ray?
So, yeah, they eat a lot because they need to and it's like it's like Fourth of July for them every day.
Yeah. Yeah. Pretty much three, two to three times their own weight in food.
Yeah. And this is we're talking about just on normal days. Can we talk a little bit about the migration and what their need to beef up then. I think we should. So they migrate like we like we talked about. They're not exactly sure what triggers that. They think maybe they see the change in daylight like some other animals and birds do, or maybe just the fact that flowers, you know, what the flowers are doing.
But I think that that's the one that's the big one, because they they can't go for more than a few hours without food. So they need to go where the plants are flowering. Right. Just kind of follow them.
And I guess they're always connected to that. Those subtle changes in the flowering. Exactly. So during this migration, their heartbeat's about twelve hundred and sixty times a minute and they have to gain because they're trekking. I mean, sometimes they're they're flying over the Gulf of Mexico in one shot over the course of a few days. So they need to bulk up big time. They gain about twenty five to forty percent of their bodyweight before they start this migration.
And if we're going to do the human equivalent again for this guy, if you were a person that weighed one hundred and seventy pounds, that means you'd have to gain up to about two fifty five in a few weeks time. Right.
Like Christian Bale esq I know in just a few weeks mean it's crazy. So one of the things that's so impressive about the the hummingbird is just how far it can fly in a day, especially for how small it is. You know, they they average something like 23 miles a day when they're migrating. But the ruby throated hummingbird, the one that it's the only one that you'll find east of the Mississippi. So if you see a hummingbird in your east of the Mississippi, you can be like a ornithologist for once in your life and be like, that's a ruby throated hummingbird.
Um, they actually can travel for extraordinarily long stretches and they do because they're wintering grounds or in the Yucatan, but they hang out in Florida during the other part of the year, I guess, during the summer. And so they travel over the Gulf of Mexico, they think. And when they do that, they do it in like a straight 500 mile stretch within eighteen to twenty two hours without stopping.
That's that's incredibly impressive. It really is.
But then there was a study in twenty sixteen that found they could go even further, right.
Yeah. They said, you know, physiologically in theory they could fly close to fourteen hundred miles without stopping.
If they needed to go crazy they'd be like flying from Atlanta to Albuquerque. That's nuts. If you want to reference that means nothing to nobody.
So if you're wondering when they rest, when they finally get down to that sweet soil in Mexico, they can enter torpor, which we've talked about before. It is sort of hibernation lite, really deep sleep like state. Their metabolic functions are really slowed. I think they can drop their their body temperature by 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they lower that heart rate from about 100 beats per minute to as few as 50. And they do this after they after they migrate.
But they can do this any time they need to. And they do.
Yeah, they do. And also, I think it depends on where they live because hummingbirds like I said, a lot of them live in the Andes, like high up on the mountainside. And even in the summer, it can get kind of cool there. So when the temperature cools enough that it makes no sense for them to keep up their metabolic rate to try to meet their one hundred and five degree Fahrenheit body temperature, they'll enter torpor and that's just what they do for sleep.
And one of the other things that I want to point out about them living in the Andes, Chuck, this is all really just a Segway for this amazing fact. They live in the Andes despite the fact and there are some species that are native to the Andes, not just like migrating through, that's where they live is the Andes, despite the fact that they have these high metabolic rates and they need more oxygen. Well, there's just inherently less oxygen in the air up in the mountains, and it's harder to hover because the air is thinner.
And yet they are so successful there in the Andes, they're up above a certain line. There's no insects. And so it's up to the hummingbirds exclusively to pollinate all the flowering plants up there.
Yeah, I mean, I think that's that's probably why, like, they have the market cornered up there. Sure. They're like, all right, well, let's adapt so we can kind of own this area. And not only that, I don't think we mentioned that sometimes if you're a small enough hummingbird and there's a big enough insect, the insect is can can win that battle.
In hummingbird world, the insect eats you.
All right, Branson, Missouri, let's take a break. Okay, I figured that was going to trigger a break.
All right. We'll come back right now to talk more about hummingbird's.
Hey, it's Bobby Bones, executive producer of Make It Up as we Go, the brand new podcast from Audio Up and I Heart Radio brought to you exclusively by Unilever's Noor and Magnum Brands. The story follows a songwriter's journey as well as the songs themselves and how they make it to country radio from executive producer Miranda Lambert and creators Scarlett Burg and Jared Goosestep, a story inspired by the competitive world of Nashville writing rooms featuring original music by Scarlett Burke, director and executive producer, featuring some of the biggest names in country, including the Cool Guy and everything.
Now in that. They on Saturday might make it up as we go only on the podcast network in association with audio of media created by Scarlett Burke and Jared Goosestep. OK, Chuck, so we're talking more about hummingbird's, one of the things that I really feel like we just need to underscore here is that they are metabolic wonders. They do live on this edge of survival where they will die if they go a few hours without food, like, do you know how many days you, a human being can go without food before you die, as long as you have water and maybe access to a couple of vitamins or whatever?
We did a podcast on that at some point.
I'm pretty sure we did. Yeah. Angus, Barbara, her bahbah. I can't remember. They die within hours, so they constantly have to search for food sources. Yeah. That's why you see them flitting about constantly. They're always looking for food. Mm hmm.
But it's also one of the reasons why they're known as potentially the most unsociable and most territorial bird in existence. Yeah.
They don't like hanging out with each other. Um, there are some exceptions that we're going to talk about, but they generally don't don't like, hang out together. They don't like hanging out with other birds. At the end of the day, when everyone's just sing-song by the shoreline, hummingbirds are like, no, screw you guys, I got to eat. And not only do I have to eat, I got to make a little hummingbird eggs. And we talked about this courtship dive.
We kind of teased it out. This is pretty incredible. And this is when a lot of times in mating rituals, you'll see the males doing these kind of big fancy shows to try a card trick. Yeah, trained dogs playing poker. That was that was all about the photographer was a female dog. That's right.
And so you'll ah, I guess it wasn't a photograph was it.
It was probably a painting. No, I think about it in stuff you should know world. It was a photograph but it was a tintype so it was very old.
So it was funny, I was telling my daughter today about my bed, she always loves hearing stories about me and my brother as a kid, and I was telling her about my teenage bedroom. And I was like, I'll show you a picture one day. I've got pictures.
And she said, You had a phone when you were little. And I was like, oh, boy.
That's what it's like these days. She is so and I had to explain that, you know, this phone camera and a phone is kind of a new thing, like they used to be two different pieces of equipment. Yes, they were two very bulky, different pieces of equipment and the phone used to be attached to your wall in your kitchen. Oh, yeah, that's true.
But if you were, you know, super wealthy, you have whether it was really, really long.
Guess that's exactly the deal. Yeah. So, uh, the courtship dive is when the male is trying to attract the female for a little love, and that will fly up in the air really high, about 50 or 60 feet, and then dive bomb toward the female as fast as it can go. And there they are flying the whole way. They're not just they don't touch the wing back and the wings back like you're parachuting or something like they're flying as fast as they can.
Right at this lady's face and within inches of her head going full tilt, they just pull up real quick. And they they hit her in the arm twice and say two for flinching, they they put on the brakes and she flies right by. But that's what they do is crazy. They fly right at their face and then stop. If the female gets a little turned on, she might flit about in the air with them. And then that's where people might think, oh, look at those two hummingbirds are up in the air having sex.
No. And maybe your mom would tell you that you need to leave the room because hummingbirds are doing it right there. But that's not what they're doing. They actually they actually copulate perched on a branch. OK, they do that. They're. The female lands on the branch sometimes, like you said, she'll join them in the air, other times she'll just be like, come on down here, you you win, let's go. And the male mounts her from behind on the branch.
And just like with everything else, the hummingbirds are super quick at six, too. Apparently, it takes about four seconds and then that's it, like wham bam. Thank you, ma'am. Yep.
And the male flies away. He doesn't hang around and see if it took he goes on to have sex with another female and the lady goes like, what is this, a fern bar. Who are you? Jack Tripper. And so she goes off and builds a nest and does all the parenting like, you know, they don't mate for life. They don't even stick around after they mate at all. It's just they're in. They're out, they're gone.
And I mean, you might think, well, that's that's a pretty big bummer. Poor, poor, poor, little poor. Yeah.
Poor lady hummingbird's. That's exactly how they want it. Because like we said, as the species is known as are all of the species, the hummingbird is known as the most territorial bird. So it seems at least as far as natural selection is concerned, females prefer this arrangement, no pear imprinting or mating pair imprinting to where they just do all the work themselves, because that means that they can also have their own access to their food source, to where no matter what the what the male hummingbird is going to bring to the table and say child rearing or whatever, it's not worth the food that this female would have to share.
And that's where their territoriality comes from. Because, remember, hummingbirds live on this edge of survival where if they go for hours without food, they will die. So they're really, really protective of their food source to the point where a female hummingbird would preferably raised young on her own, then share her food source with the male.
Yeah, I mean, it's kind of cool, actually. I get the picture that the female hummingbird is like, I need you. For one thing, it takes four seconds. And believe me, if I could go to a sperm bank, I would prefer that.
Honestly, I thought you were going to say, believe me, you're going to have the time of your life. But those four seconds will be a wild ride, my friend.
That's right. Come come with me on this bridge over here, baby. And it's going to be it's going to be a stone gas. I know.
Hey, babe, come here.
So those gorgeous that we were talking about, those really colorful iridescent sort of fluffy chest and neck feathers of the male, um, like with many animals, the more brightly colored and showy that is, the more the female might be attracted because that might indicate that male birds fitness because, you know, you got to take a lot of work to keep that that hairstyle up. So he must be pretty, pretty strong and have, you know, pretty good at organizing his day to day list to do effectively the exact same signals that Joe Dirt put out with his hair.
You know, he was obviously very genetically fit and ready to go.
I never saw that. Are you sure? It's definitely it's got a lot of heart. I think I see that every time you say you never saw it, but it's worth checking out for sure. It's one of those ones. You know, some don't age very well.
I think it came poorly aged right out of the right, out of the production facility. But that's one of the great beauties of it. It's definitely worth seeing, Chuck.
Well, speaking of aged right out of the chute, that's kind of the deal with hummingbird babies, too. They say the mom doesn't there's not a lot of teaching. And like here, let me show you the ropes. It's kind of like, all right, this is the world you've been hatched from your little pieces egg.
Now go out there and be a hummingbird. Learn it all on your own, kiddo.
But what's amazing, though, is that they do learn this on their own. They have astounding memories to the point where when they migrate, people who put out feeders, which we'll talk about in a little bit for hummingbirds, note that the same ones or what they believe is the same one comes back year after year. And what's even more astounding, frequently on the same day of the year, the same date, the same hummingbird will come back year after year on this on his or her migration.
Right. And that they just understand this. He knows. And part of it, yes. Is following flowers and the the blooming patterns of flowers. But they also think they might have some sort of magnetic compass built in that possibly part of their pineal gland, which is light sensitive, is used, manages to use the sun as a compass, and that they have astounding memories somehow, some way, because apparently their brain is about the size of a grain of rice in most cases.
Yeah. And the other thing, too, is if they have speaking of coming back to the buffet, if they have a patch of flowers, let's say, on your property that they just love, they'll be like, all right, this is this is mine. I'm just going to go ahead and claim this. I'm going to come back here because you've got all the good stuff. My beak fits that flower just perfectly. And and we'll talk here in a minute more about what they eat and why.
But they will they will fiercely protect that little patch of flowers that they love so much and go back to it time and time again.
Yeah. So that's where their territoriality comes from, is protecting food sources and not just food sources. Like I've been growing this patch of flowers all summer. Stay away. They could stop somewhere for a half of an hour and or colloquially half hour.
And we'll still protect like that flower patch that they stopped by if somebody comes along and tries to get it. And the whole reason that they do this is because, like, they eat nectar along with some other stuff, and it takes a really long time for a flower to produce nectar. So the the hummingbird would love to just have to go to the flower once and get the full dose of nectar, but they can't just wait around because other things will come in either the nectar they've been hanging out for.
So they've developed this secondary behavior, which is territoriality will chase of other hummingbirds. They'll chase off over their birds. They've been known to chase off hawks, even if the hawk comes a little close for their comfort.
Yeah, and they'll you know, I think early on in the Hummingbird Council of 1915, they said all the socialist hummingbirds got together and said, hey, if we all relax, just let that nectar build up, we'll be a lot easier to eat and all the other, you know, the little I'm not going to I don't want to get political here, but there are some hummingbirds that were like, no way, man, I'm not playing ball.
I'm going to get in there and get that nectar whenever I feel like it. Right. So that didn't work it out.
No. And the ones the other ones that wouldn't go along with it fired all the air traffic, controlling hummingbirds. That's right. Yeah. I think we should take a break. I think so. Let's take a break and we'll finish up about what they eat and all about those little feeders that you have in your backyard right after this. OK, Chuck, so everybody knows that hummingbirds eat nectar, and that's definitely true, and they're very well adapted to eat nectar.
They have this tube like tongue that apparently uses a wicking action to soak up nectar from a flower on a plant.
And they do this. This tongue can actually carry a load of nectar into their mouths like 13 times a second. That's super fast. Not that surprising that they're doing this super fast, too, but it's still pretty impressive. But it's not just nectar. It's not the only thing that they eat. And actually, people found out the hard way that they didn't just eat nectar because captured hummingbirds who were studied in captivity died pretty quickly when all they were given was like a sugar water solution or even a nectar solution.
And so they came to realize that they actually eat a lot of insects, too. And that's one of the great things about hummingbirds. In addition to being pollinators, they're also really bigger insect controls. And one of the insects that they eat are bloodsucking mosquitoes. Yeah, mosquitoes, little spiders. And this is in addition to I don't think we mentioned the 1000 to 2000 flower blossoms that they will go poach every single day. Mm hmm. So that's what I mean when we talk about these these hummingbirds are our food scavengers, up to two thousand flowers a day.
That's pretty intense. It really is.
So that makes them very, very important. Pollinators, like we said in the Andes where, you know, you're above the insect line, it's just up the hummingbirds to pollinate flowers. So when they're going from flower to flower, getting that nectar, if you pretend that evolution is a living, breathing thing, evolution has created this arrangement where the flower produces nectar treat in exchange or to attract the little hummingbird. And then when the hummingbirds getting its little nectar treat the flower just kind of goes, here's the little pollen on your forehead.
Go find another flower that looks like me and you'll find another nectar tree and then transfer this pollen. While you do so, they pollinate a lot of important stuff and in addition to eating lots of bugs. So they're just all around great animals.
Yeah. And they they love that nectar. If you're thinking about flowers in your own garden, if you want to attract some hummingbirds, they want a sugar content of about 26 percent of it. Can't be too. It can't be like a Windies frosty because they're using that that tongue is sort of like a straw. Right. So you got to get that spoon with the frost. You can't suck that thing up.
If you try, you're going to pass out in your car while you're driving your little cross in here so that that sugar concentrate, it can't be too too sticky because like I said, they're sucking that thing up. Oftentimes you'll see red or orange petals or Brack's. They're often long and tubular because that long tongue and beak can get in there when others can't. So that kind of gives them the market cornered on that particular flower. It keeps out posers.
It does. And this is the cool thing. Those flowers that you see, that sort of trumpet downward, you know, unless you can hover, you're out of luck there. So they love these things because they can hover.
Yep. So there's a lot of actually there's a lot of plants that have flowers that kind of fit this bill. And most hummingbirds aren't really fit the bill. Man, that was an unintentional, I guess, fit the beak.
They don't like it.
Well, you know, ducks, Bill, and ducks are birds. You're right.
Are they, um, so but they're not super specialized. They'll eat just about anything that they can get nectar out of. But there are definitely kinds of flowers that are have kind of coevolved with hummingbirds to kind of give them what they're looking for more easily.
But one of the problems with with human development, as with all things, is we kind of have supplanted a lot of those kinds of flowers. The good news is, if you have heard all this and you're like, I want to encourage hummingbirds to keep living, you can plant these flowers pretty easy.
Yeah, I sent this list to Emily, actually, because we have our garden is very. Our garden is very much built for use, for use and Emily's budding interest in herbalism and use for the insects that we know and the birds that we know inhabit our area. So it's not just like, oh, that's pretty. Like we want it to be a real thing that works for our local environment.
I can't remember who said it, but there's a famous quote that nothing useless can ever truly be beautiful. Oh, interesting. I found that that is one of the truest things ever said. Nothing useless, useless can ever truly be beautiful. I think that broke my brain. What does that mean? It just means that you like usefulness, like the the ability for something to to have a purpose is an important part of its existence.
OK. And so just beauty alone doesn't justify the exist, OK?
That's what I thought it was saying. But something felt like a double negative in there that kind of broke my brain a little bit.
You overthought think it so be bomb the old trumpet creeper. Yeah. Which was Miles Davis nickname for a little while when he was drilling holes in bathroom wall. The Cardinal Flower, the Columbine and the Coral Honeysuckle are all very hummingbird friendly flowers and plants that you can put in your yard. And I said that to Emily and I think we have a couple of these. We used to have Columbine and she's going to bring that back. And we're going to see if we can get some more hummingbird action in our in our backyard.
That's awesome. Some hot, sticky hummingbird at four seconds of pleasure.
So you can also just go get yourself a hummingbird feeder. And a lot of people put red food dye in there and that is actually a controversial move. There's some concern among hummingbird enthusiasts that the dye actually can be harmful over long periods of time. Maybe it can build up because, again, hummingbirds have very tiny origins because they're a very tiny bird. So introducing this artificial red dye might not be the best idea. Other people say that's totally unsubstantiated.
There's never been any proof that it actually harms hummingbirds. And then the other people say back, it's totally unnecessary. The birds going to find the sugar water either way. So why add the red dye just in case it is harmful if it's just unnecessary? So most most hummingbird enthusiasts say don't put red dye in your hummingbird sugar water.
Yes. And that solution mixture is important. You can't just don't just dump a bunch of syrup and water together, a bunch of sugar cane or whatever it is, four parts water to one part sugar because they need a specific sugar content of about twenty six percent and that four to one makes about twenty five percent of my math is correct.
It does is it's close enough. So one of the other ways you can help hummingbirds too is in the most delicious way by choosing coffee that is grown in a situation that allows hummingbirds to thrive. Yeah, this is I didn't know about this. This is really cool. There is a certified bird friendly coffee because we were talking about the Andes and the fact that the birds travel great distances and elevations up and down these mountains and coffee is grown about halfway up these tropical mountains.
And they have a lot of great, you know, flowers under the shade canopy there. And it's a really nice home for hummingbirds there. And if you drink bird friendly coffee, that means that they're they have these flowers and they're making sure they take care of these flowers.
Right. And, yeah, it's growing. And I kind of like a simulated forest is closely simulated as possible. So you want to look for something that says it's bird friendly Rainforest Alliance and or shade grown, and that probably means that hummingbirds are thriving on those coffee plantations. Yes. And I went and looked in my beloved Batdorf and bronzing coffees are all bird friendly, of course, and shade grown. Is that what you and I was very. Oh, yeah, yeah.
Same here. I'm crazy for that. So I've got a great, great blend for you. Trader Joe's decaf beans half. Yeah. And the other half Batdorf from Bronson Whirling Dervish. It's it's the most amazing combination ever to give that a shot.
You know, I'm not drinking coffee now because of it's not winter, but Emily still has her latte every morning and she, she just has their, you know, their espresso beans.
Coffee is a three hundred and sixty five day year activity. I know. Not for me, but I get it. That's OK. I'm not going to. Yum, yum, yum, yum. Very well done. So that's it for hummingbird's, right? That's it.
Well, if you want to know more about hummingbird's, get one wonderland in your hand and study it up close and personal. But don't mess with it because it's protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the United States and you could land in jail and pay up to a two hundred thousand dollar fine for harm and good.
And since I said two hundred thousand dollar fine, everybody, that means, of course, is time for listener mail.
I'm going to talk about the exploding birthmark.
Hey, guys, big fan of the show, which I listened to while I'm cooking breakfast, doing laundry and staring back at this and staring at 100000 row Excel spreadsheets for work.
Oh, man, my soul just shattered.
I know I recently listened to the episode on birthmarks and thought you might like to hear the story of my birthmark that exploded. I was born with two birthmarks, both of which have since been removed. One of those birthmarks was dark, brownish red and a circle on the inside of my right thigh. I didn't think much of it. It wasn't very visible. And like you said on the show, lots of people have birthmarks. However, when I was in the third grade, my family and I were about to leave for my aunt's house to celebrate Thanksgiving when I realized my pants kept sticking to my leg.
Oh, man. I went to the bathroom and removed my pants and I saw blood running down my leg. As a third grader who had not yet even learned about menstruation, I assumed I was dying. So I freaked out. It turns out my birthmark was the result of a vascular malformation the size of a small bouncy ball in my inner thigh. My gosh, the tangled up ball events had ruptured that Thanksgiving morning and I had to go to the E.R. where they stuck a tiny piece of foam on my leg and probably charred just about two thousand dollars because hospitals a few months later, I had it surgically removed.
But now I have a three inch long scar instead of a birthmark. But because of my surgery, I wasn't allowed to run for a few weeks and I got out of running the mile. So who's the winner now? Lucky. Uh, thanks for helping me seem really knowledgeable on very specific topics. And that is from Bailey. Nice Bailey. There's a great story. Pretty good. Bailey left out that, ironically, both the birthmark and the scar were in the shape of Satan.
And by the way, Bailey says in the piece that the other birthmark was hemangioma on the bottom lip. That was removed me. So, I mean, that's interesting stuff. Yeah, very interesting.
And what was the fact that I kept saying over and over again about hemangioma is that there are tangled cluster of blood vessels? Don't think so. Okay, so maybe there were two the same kind of birthmark, maybe so. Well, thanks a lot, Bailey. And if you want to get in touch with us like Bailey did and share an amazing story, we're always up for those. You can get in touch with us via email these days at Stuff podcast that I heart.
Stuff you should know is a production of radios HowStuffWorks for more podcasts, my heart radio, the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.