An animal of superlatives, the hummingbird (Archilochus sp.) is one of our yard's most charming visitors. Hummingbirds include the smallest birds, have the fastest wing beats, and are the only birds who gather their nectar diet almost exclusively while hovering. They are masters of control in flight; only insects can perform many of the same feats. Here in central Texas, we are at the overlapping ranges of two common hummingbird species, the ruby-throated from the east and the black-chinned from the west. Immature individuals, such as the one pictured above, are very difficult to pin down because they look so similar.
Hummingbirds are native only to the Americas, being most diverse in South America. Because of their nectar diet, they are important pollinators. In fact, the anthers of the big red sage flower, at which the bird shown here is feeding, are touching the top of its head in a perfect spot to drop pollen, which will then be rubbed off on another flower's stamen.
The nests of hummers are, as might be expected, quite tiny. The birds use spider webs and bits of lichen and/or plant fibers in their construction. The female lays two eggs.
Because of their specialized food source, hummingbirds are very territorial. They are particularly fond of red flowers but also like other nectar-laden blooms. In the spring, our mimosa tree's pink puffy blossoms attract hummingbirds along with insects. The tree is located near a backyard pond and I've seen a patrolling red dragonfly (who was protecting his pond) and a ruby-throated hummingbird (who was protecting his tree) chase each other all over the yard, even around the house!
While hummingbirds cannot be mistaken for any other kind of bird, observers do sometimes mix them up with sphinx moths, which look surprisingly like hummingbirds as they feed at flowers.