Oh yes there they were! On my sister’s patio, some very special visitors. Visitors I spend many hours watching, as they buzz in and out at 15 minute intervals through the day.
The most common hummingbirds along the Pacific Coast of North America. Little jewel like creatures. Shinning brilliant reds and greens. Buzzing – humming with great ferocity as they fly in for their quick energy top-up from the bottle of sugar syrup hanging out for them.
I don’t know if they recognise me from my biennium trips to California, but they definitely gave me a close scrutiny as I set up camera and tripod and sat quietly waiting for them.
In total there are over 330 different species of hummingbirds, all living in the Western Hemisphere. Though small and delicate, awakening every protective instinct in all who encounter them, don’t take their ferocity lightly. Less than 5 inches in size and weighting about under 5 grams, they have no fear.
One bird came close and closer still. Checking me and my camera out. It’s big eyes staring directly into mine, long beak pointing straight at me and wings whirling loudly like motorblades 50 flaps per second. A couple of seconds of that look, I felt quite ready to duck back indoors!
Not just their extreme territorial aggression (smaller, weaker hummingbirds can die of starvation not being able to feed from a feeder guarded by a stronger one), hummingbirds are superlative in many ways…
- hummingbirds can fly faster than a fighter jet, relative to size. Reaching approximately 90 feet per second. 30 to 40 kilometers per hour is quite average!
- as it pulls up from a dive, with wings spread, a hummingbird experiences centripetal accelerations nearly nine times greater than gravitational acceleration. Humans would black-out under this pressure!
- they can fly backward and at times even upside down!
- their heart beats about 250 times per minute while at rest. About 1,220 per minute while flying!
- they takes about 250 breaths per minute while at rest!
- they need to feed on almost half their body weight everyday to keep up with all the energy they spend!
- a hummingbird’s brain makes up 4.2 percent of its weight; proportionally, the largest of any bird’s! (Human brains are about 2% of our weight)
Then there are these absolutely enchanting facts. They make their nests of spider web (imagine how delicate that is!), along with lichens and moss, and their brilliant colours are not from pigmentation but how their feathers reflect light. 🙂
As you can see they have me spellbound, so to continue the magic once I was back home I got myself Sy Montgomery’s book recent book The Hummingbird’s Gift.
Sy Montgomery has a powerful writing style. Her book The Soul of the Octopus converted me into a confirmed Octopus crazy-person (woe befall anyone who orders an Octopus for a meal in my presence! )
The Hummingbirds’ Gift is a quick read. Though some sentences get repeated verbatim a couple of times, the editorial oversight doesn’t distract from the sweet charm of the story.
Thinking back on my encounters with the little hummers, I’ll sign-off with a smile and a very happy hummm….
More facts about hummingbirds