If you’ve been noticing hummingbirds around you lately, consider it a gift.
In his book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says hummingbirds bring joy to whomever they encounter. “They come to remind us to love life.”
Hummingbirds are the tiniest of all birds. Their eight and a half centimeter long bodies weigh only slightly more than a US penny, yet they have a metabolism 100’xs that of an elephant.
They are New World birds, found in the Americas, North to Alaska and South to Chile. Africa has no hummingbirds. Neither does Australia.
In a quiet corner of my garden one Spring I found a nest made of root and bark peels mixed with spider webs. It was difficult to tell if there was anything alive in the down and lichen bed until I watched a hummingbird mom regurgitate into the yet undeveloped beaks of two nine day-old, bean-sized chicks.
Maintaining the highest metabolism rate of any animal on earth isn’t easy. They need to consume anywhere from 2/3 to 3 times their body weight each day. That makes them aggressive and territorial about their food source.
For several days I’ve been watching one handsome burnt orange colored Rufous hummingbird maneuvering around like a small kamikaze pilot, guarding the sugar water feeder from a Broad Tail hummer. Both species have migrated here from Mexico.
Between feedings Mr. Rufous perches in the Pinion trees watching for intruders.
Then, using his beak as a weapon, and making a distinctive squirt sound, he dive-bombs the poor Broad Tail. I’m wondering why the victim has not left my garden in search of his own source of food.
Like a firecracker, hummingbirds are able to move quickly in any direction. Forward, backwards, up, down and sideways – they have no limitations – teaching those who are visited by hummingbirds, “the only true prison we have is our belief in our limitations,” writes Andrews.
Several years ago I watched wild hummingbirds at a resort in an Ecuadorian cloud forest (most of the 300 species of hummingbirds can be found in that country). Representing every color of the rainbow, some species had white cotton-like boots around their legs, others tails twice the size of their bodies.
What about you? Have you had any encounters with hummingbirds, the little flying jewels of joy, lately?
Where to see Hummingbirds in the United States
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has a fabulous hummingbird aviary. But don’t wear red or flower pattern shirts unless you don’t mind having a buzzing spiked dot of iridescence come at you at 25 – 30 miles an hour, and then hover in front of your face trying to decide if you are a good food source.
Featured drawing by Bob Jacobs.