Wannabe Birder blog: HummersDo you believe in hummingbirds?
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
One of the things I don't think I could ever grow tired of is watching hummingbirds.
I've been blessed recently with steady hummingbird traffic on my nectar feeder. There may be only two hummers. That is the most I've seen at once, and when there are two at a time one quickly chases off the other.
But I never have to wait long before a hummingbird appears at my feeder. I'm rewarded with a wonderful view, because the feeder is hanging just outside the sliding door to my dining room.
For whatever reason, hummingbirds have been only sporadic visitors to the feeders I've had out in previous years. So now that I'm finally get regulars, I'm obsessive about trying to please them. Has the nectar been out too long? Is it too cold? Too warm? Is there enough left to last the day? Am I using the right water:sugar ratio? (I always go with 4:1.)
But the hummingbirds don't seem to be all that fussy.
Bob King and I covered the Duluth Air Show a few Saturdays ago, and we were impressed by those amazing flying machines and what the highly skilled pilots could do with them. But we agreed that they've got nothing on hummingbirds.
They hover. They zip forward, backwards, up, down. Their wings move constantly, far too fast to follow with the naked eye. A hummingbird's wings beat 60 to 80 times per second in normal flight. In a courtship dive it can accelerate to 200 times per second. And occasionally, miraculously, it comes to a complete rest. But never for long.
And consider this: The ruby-throated hummingbird (that's the only kind we normally see in the Northland) that's feeding on my nectar will be somewhere in Central America for Christmas. This tiny creature, 3.5 inches from tip of bill to tip of tail, weighing less than a nickel, will somehow cover all that distance. Let's say it travels from Duluth to Galveston, Texas -- 1,380 miles. Then it crosses the Gulf of Mexico in a single, 525-mile flight. And then perhaps 1,000 miles more to somewhere in Central America. That a journey of 2,905 miles.
There's a line, I think, in "Peter Pan," in which the children in the audience are asked: "Do you believe in fairies?"
I say: I know hummingbirds are real, so why not fairies?
You may have seen this video, but it might be worth seeing again. It shows someone in Kentucky feeding a hummingbird by hand:
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