Three weeks ago, I posted a photo of a single broad tailed hummingbird on the feeder hanging from my front porch roof. In defiance of common sense, scores more individuals have joined him even as the temperature plummeted. It’s below freezing at dawn and yet there are aerial battles going on in the streaming sunlight…. and my feeders are drained. I cannot relax until they are again full of warm, sugary water. I am going through a pound of sugar a week but am rewarded with the ability to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures.
Did you know that hummers have several one-of-kind super abilities? They can not only hover, they can fly backwards as well as upside-down. Their wings beat at between 70 and 200 strokes per second. Only the males generate the high-pitched zooming sound; a sound generated by wind blowing through their tail feathers. They normally cruise at 30 mph and can dive at speeds exceeding 60 mph.
They are able to remember the location of every individual flower encountered along their migratory routes, some of which are thousands of miles long. They can also recognize individual humans, especially those who are likely to refill their feeders at 6:30 on a Mother’s Day morning.
Hummers must eat every ten minutes and consume three times their body weight every day. They weigh about the same as a nickel and will consume not only nectar but small flying insects which they stalk and capture near open water. But what amazes me is how they survive the freezing temperatures at night. They are able to dial down their metabolism to almost nothing, allowing them to cling to a branch and puff up their feathers, awakening with the promise of morning to fly off, seeking nourishment. Along this line, they have more feathers per inch than any other bird except the penguin.
I love hummingbirds. My mother loved hummingbirds. Ancient American cultures revered hummingbirds. And I would like to think my hummingbirds love me. I know that is not terribly scientific, but hey, it’s Mother’s Day; I can dream what I want today.