Monday, September 6, 2010
A hummingbird moving about at warp speed and stopping to hover on a dime is a truly amazing critter. It takes a fast shutter or strobe to stop what appears to be blurred gossamer wings. Surely hummingbirds must have a metabolism which far exceeds even that of the most ravenous rat.
Our humming bird feeder is frequented by what appears to be a small group. They can suck the feeder dry in a hurry. The birds have no benevolence at chow time. Rights to feast on the sweet red fake nectar are bitterly contested. The feeder has four feeding spaces; there is never more than one occupied. The aerial dogfights are right up there with the Bloody Red Baron.
This behavior flies in the face of what most people believe is a cute little " . . . awwwwwww" critter. Guitar legend Les Paul and his wife Mary Ford may have known the truth when they recorded "Hummingbird" in the forties. The lyrics bemoaned a lover who flitted from blossom to blossom with more or less reckless abandon.
Two friends weighed-in on hummingbird aggression after I posted a hummingbird shot on Facebook. Gerald Ware of Greenwood, Arkansas, a retired biology teacher and divinely ordained protector of the world’s coolest Bois d' Arc tree, recalled his father-in-law's affinity for hummingbirds. "Sometimes there is one particular female, perhaps one whose young have flown or was peepless, and she makes the feeder her territory and just sits and guards and chases. My father-in-law usually had four or five feeders out and spent hours taking care of them. One year he had one of these greedy females he named Nora, after a quarrelsome neighboring lady. The bird was very small, comparatively, and very dark colored. He would go out and run Nora off but she quickly returned to her post when he was out of sight."
Tulsa raconteur Richard "Dick" Estes reported, “We had one named Kamikaze."
The Almighty, when He gave these little varmints such an untoward temperament, showed his infinite wisdom in confining it to a miniscule delivery system. If hummingbirds were the size of owls, a human would need body armor in their presence. And owls would probably keep their distance. As it is, we can enjoy these animated avians in relative safety for the price of a feeder and fake nectar. Such a deal.
N O T E S:
SEE ANOTHER HUMMINGBIRD PICTURE
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.