So what’s the answer?

The story on the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory in the September issue of The Highlands Voicegave an example of a question that a volunteer there would pose to visitors: Which do you think weighs more…a hummingbird or a ping pong ball?

The story did not give the answer.

A ping pong ball weighs 2.7 grams.  If you just want to knock one around in your basement, exact weight doesn’t matter.  If you want to play in the Olympics, it has to weigh 2.7 grams.  (You also have to learn to call it “table tennis” but that’s another matter.)

Is this more or less than a hummingbird?  Like much in life, the answer is …it depends.

It depends both upon species and time of year.  The sumo wrestler of hummingbirds is the Giant Hummingbird(Patagona gigas), weighing in at 18-24 grams.  It lives in the Andes, from Columbia to Argentina.  Although it does migrate, it never makes it out of South America.  It is an outlier in the hummingbird family, weighing almost twice as much as the next largest species and ten times more than the smallest.

The smallest hummingbird (and smallest bird) is the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) Femalesweigh 2.6 grams; the slightly smaller males weigh 1.95 grams.  They only live in Cuba.

The only hummingbird that would likely be seen at the Allegheny Front Migration Observatory is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)   Its males average 3.4 grams; the slightly larger female averages 3.8 grams. It spends its winters in Florida, Southern Mexico, and Panama.  It breeds throughout the Eastern United States and Southern Canada.

The weights of hummingbirds also change with the season. When they are bulking up in preparation for migration they weigh more than these average weights.

So, what is the answer?  Although there are several exceptions, most hummingbirds outweigh a ping pong ball.