A Few of my Favorite Birds (10): The Tiny but Powerful Hummingbird

Hummingbird. 1I’m here to tell you that it’s just fine to be tiny! Hummingbird 4 Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the smallest birds to breed in the Eastern U.S.,     Hummingbird 11 and although they come daily to feed on the flowers outside my window (sometimes staring in at me as if they’d like to fly through the looking glass), Hummingbird at Hybiscus I rarely get good pictures, because they never hold still for even a second!Hummingbird in Fuschia 07.14.14 In fact, their tiny wings beat 55 (and up to 200) times every second as they hover,  and their tiny hearts beat over 1,200 times per minute! Hummingbird 08.15.14 No wonder they consume more than their body weight (which is just a little over a tenth of an ounce) in nectar every day just to keep alive! Hummingbird 5 I used to keep a ruby-red hummingbird feeder and specialized, red solution  to attract the hummingbirds, but then I read that the red dyes might be bad for them, so I started using my own solution of 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Hummingbird 7However, I then read that the solution should really be changed every day lest bacteria grow in it, with warnings against honey, brown, and raw sugars—which can be deadly…not to mention artificial food reduces the amount of natural pollination of local plants, etc. Hmmm. Hummingbird 10 So much for trying to give these teensy birds a treat! Hibiscus For the past few years, I keep a bright red hibiscus and a planter of purple and red fuschsias on the deck outside my window. Hummingbird 07.03.14 The hummingbirds love these and visit a half a dozen times a day (for a few seconds). Since then, I’ve been able to film them sipping nectar every once in a great while, although most of my attempts are still out of focus!  Ruby-throated hummingbird Just once did I see both the male and female together (couldn’t get a picture, though  😦   ), and after some research, I now know why. Unlike most birds, hummingbird males only mate for a few seconds. (Should that surprise us?) Tiny hummingbird nest  The females lay 1-3 tiny eggs in an itsy-bitsy, cup-shaped nest about the size of an acorn, artfully crafted from lichen and lined with spider’s silk, which will expand as the chicks mature during their 2-3 week nestling stage. Carleen finding hummingbird nest My daughter-in-law Carleen (who’s a great nature lover like I am), sleuthed out the location of a hummingbird nest in the woods near their home in Connecticut, and after the brood had been reared, she carefully took the nest home, thinking it wouldn’t be used again. Hummingbird nest in tree  Actually, hummingbirds usually have two broods a year and typically repair and reuse their nests, but Carlie didn’t know that (since many birds build different nests for each batch of eggs; she’s a super-compassionate person who would help a wounded spider if she found one). Hummingbird in Touch-me-nots I trust the mama with the missing nest was able to build another! Ruby-throated hummingbird 8 Ruby-throated hummingbirds are seasonal residents, leaving to winter in Mexico and Central America, some actually surviving a 500-mile, direct crossing of the Gulf of Mexico! Hummingbird from Back My guess is that anyone reading this knows just what they look like, but in case you don’t: they have beautiful, metallic green backs, Hummingbird impatiens greyish white underparts, brown-black wings, Hummingbird. Tail feathers spread black-with-white tail feathers, Hummingbird. Side. Wings and feet and exceptionally tiny little feet!Hummingbird side. Beek. Green back Their bills are long, straight (slightly down-curved), slender, and up to 0.8″ long, which seems inordinately big given their 3″ body length and 4″ wingspan!Hummingbird Sipping Nectar But, they don’t drink with their beaks. These magnificent tinys actually drink by rapidly lapping nectar with their long, tubular tongues (although my eyes aren’t quick enough to discern this by watching). Hummingbird. 07-14-14 Perhaps the most most unique feature of hummingbirds is their agility in flight. 25-30% of their body weight is muscle, and they are the only birds to have wings that connect only at the shoulder joint, making it possible for their wings to rotate almost 180%! Hummingbird 2 They have been known to fly upside down and are the only birds known to fly backward. So, even though they’re tiny, they’re great at escaping from predators! Hummingbird 12Seems to me these littlest of our neighborhood feathered friends are the perfect combination of being busy as bees with every reason to be happy as jaybirds!Hummingbird 6 And, they’re beautiful! Does it get any better than that?!
So, tiny is just fine, don’t you think?
Ruby-throated humming bird 1“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26).

[The two pictures of the hummingbird nest with Carleen and the picture of the nest in the tree are used by permission of my daughter-in-law. Thank you, Carlie!]

2 responses to “A Few of my Favorite Birds (10): The Tiny but Powerful Hummingbird

  1. Your photos are awesome!

    • Thanks, Jane! I see pictures online and feel like mine aren’t crisp enough, but it’s the best I had to offer. I probably need a professional quality camera if I really want professional looking shots, but I’m thankful for what I do have! God is good!!

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