Hummingbirds

PLEASE NOTE: Many hummingbirds of the world are threatened or endangered. The main problems they face are habitat loss and destruction.5 Learn more at thehummingbirdsociety.org.

Today we’re going to journey into the miniature world of hummingbirds. We’ll need some music and I chose “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox because the title is so appropriate. Scroll through the photos as the song plays—it’s almost too much fun!

Now that I’ve distracted myself by listening to that song about 34973 times, we can get started.

Hummingbirds. About a zillion descriptives come to mind. Energetic, flashy, spirited, incredible. Miraculous, delightful, tenacious, sensational. Among all of their striking qualities, I’m always most impressed by the intense determination in their eyes. They’re in it to win it, baby. They live in a world where size definitely does not matter.

DETAILS, DETAILS. Macrophotography by Chris Morgan, no1chrism on flickr.

A sunbeam glances off its iridescent feathers, the reflected color as dazzling as a gemstone hung in a sunny window. Little wonder hummingbirds inspire heartfelt affection and stuttering efforts at description.  —MIKE KLESIUS, National Geographic

AERIAL ACROBAT. What agility! Photo by Petr Bambousek.

TINY DANCER. Striking photo of an Anna’s Hummingbird. Photographer unknown.

Photograph by Daniel Borman, borman818 on flickr.

SHARPER IMAGE. Look at that beak! Photo by Daniel Borman, borman818 on flickr.

When you’re done listening to Annie, check out the video below. In a word, it is SPECTACULAR. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the PBS documentary “Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air.” The clip below is a tantalizing taste of the film’s cinematography. They used phenomenal state of the art filming techniques to get this footage, which is explained in the clip. You can click here to watch the full documentary. (Free!) I strongly recommend it—the mechanics of these little wizards are just mind-boggling.

[I’m really starting to learn a lot about what I consider beautiful. Everything that floors me seems to share an element of fantasy, a thrilling sense that you’re witnessing a miracle.]

DID YOU KNOW?

The average hummingbird has a cranberry-sized heart that beats more than 1,200 times a minute. To keep up with itself, a hummingbird has to ingest about half its weight in sugar every day! The average hummer feeds five to eight times per hour.1

Hummingbirds are known for their miniscule dimensions, but they’re no strangers to confrontation. They’re so fiercely territorial that “I think the hummingbird vocabulary is a hundred percent swear words,” says Sheri Williamson, a naturalist at the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory.3

Hummingbirds can fly forward at speeds up to thirty miles per hour. Thirty miles per hour. Let’s say we’re talking about the largest hummingbird, which weighs about twenty grams. That’s about 0.0004% of my weight. So to be comparably fuel efficient, I’d have to be able to run over seventy-five thousand miles per hour.1

The colors you see in those fantastic feathers aren’t the result of pigment. The shiny, eye-catching feathers are iridescent; they contain special cells that process light in a unique way.2

FIRED UP. Fiery-throated Hummingbird by Petr Bambousek, p-e-r-e-g-r-i-n-e on tumblr.

CROWN JEWEL. User RLewis0727 uploaded this photo of a male Ruby-topaz Hummingbird to birdwatchingdaily.com.

TAKE FLIGHT. Immature male Anna's Hummingbird on the go. Photo by Barbara, champbass2 on flickr.

TAKE FLIGHT. Immature male Anna’s Hummingbird on the go. Photo by Barbara, champbass2 on flickr.

SERENITY. What great detail to this photograph. Image found at joehalt.blogspot.com.

SITTING PRETTY. Image found at joehalt.blogspot.com.

HUM DIDDLE DIDDLE: EGGS AND YOUNG

“Hummingbird eggs are so small they’re like little tic tacs,” Says biologist Harold Greenie. An egg that small doesn’t fit much inside; the Black-chinned Hummingbird hatchling weighs about as much as a post-it note.2 The Anna’s Hummingbird makes a nest about as big as a walnut.4

I think the best word to describe the following photos is “precious.”

SMALL WORLD. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest in a Sycamore tree. Photograph by Derek Stoner.

KEYED IN. My, what tiny eggs you have!

KEYED IN. My, what tiny eggs you have! Photo by Conan Guard, The Internet Bird Collection.

GET COMFORTABLE. Eggs as small as these definitely need Mom’s TLC. Photographer unknown.

FOODIE PATOOTIE. Someone wants to be fed! Photographer unknown.

ITTY BITTY INSPIRATION

I’m really starting to learn a lot about what I consider beautiful. Everything that floors me seems to share an element of fantasy, a thrilling sense that you’re witnessing a miracle.

Come to think of it, one of my first oil paintings was a hummingbird. It was sixth grade and I had recently become smitten with a book called A Hummingbird in My House by Arnette Heidcamp. It inspired me to express my feelings through art.

On that note, I found a great collection of hummingbird-inspired art on the web. Sampler below.

OVER THE RAINBOW. Watercolor by Sinclair Stratton.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Graphic design by Linda Hardwick, lindalemonjello.blogspot.com.

ALL THAT GLITTERS. Collage by Laura Bell, BellePapiers on etsy.com.

SPARKLE AND SHINE. Vintage rhinestone hummingbird brooch, www.rubylane.com.

SPARKLE AND SHINE. Vintage rhinestone hummingbird brooch, rubylane.com.

TRIED AND TUFTED. Tufted Coquette Hummingbird print by Maria Summerour, SummerHour on etsy.com.

What do you think? Do you find these brilliant creatures as inspiring as I do? Do share.

PLEASE NOTE: Many hummingbirds of the world are threatened or endangered. The main problems they face are habitat loss and destruction.5 Learn more at thehummingbirdsociety.org.

REFERENCES
1. “25 Fun Facts About Hummingbirds.” Birding.about.com.
2. “Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air.” PBS Nature.
3. “Hummingbirds: Flight of Fancy.” National Geographic.
4. “Anna’s Hummingbird Facts for Kids.” The NatureMapping Foundation.
5. “Hummingbird Facts.” Defenders of Wildlife website, defenders.org.

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2 comments

  1. Withywindle Nature · · Reply

    Wonderful article! I learned a ton about hummers – thanks for sharing, and thanks for joining Windows on Wildlife this week!

  2. WOW!!! I just saw that you posted my Button & Swarovski Hummingbird here! I came across it by accident, and am so glad that I did! Thank you so much. I love your blog :)

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