Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tiny Birdie Friends

Summer will soon wind down, I am dreading the migration of our hummingbird friends from Arizona to their winter home in Mexico. They have been such delightful little companions this year, as they constantly drink from the feeders Ron has hung from the eaves on our back patio.

The first thing I do in the morning is open the sliding doors on the back of the house. This allows us not only to see “our” hummingbirds, but also to hear them as they chirp noisily and purposefully buzz around like little attack helicopters. They must have nests in the trees near our house, because we see them zoom from trees to feeders and blooming plants and back to the trees almost constantly during daylight hours.

More than 300 species of hummingbirds have been identified worldwide, but I think the most common in our area are the Black-Chinned Hummingbird and (perhaps) Anna’s Hummingbird. They are very territorial, and frequently do battle over our feeders. When multiple birds approach the source of nectar simultaneously, two birds may clash – bumping their little bodies and beating wings together until both fly off to fight again later. They seem to be working things out, because more and more often, I see two or three hummingbirds warily feeding at the same time.

I learned a thing or two about hummingbirds that I did not know, by doing a little research online:

• Hummingbirds consume up to 12 times their body weight daily in nectar.
• Other nutrients are found by eating bugs and spiders.
• Due to their very high metabolism, they are continuously hours away from starving to death.
• When food is not available, they can go into a state of torpor, which slows their metabolism dramatically.
• Most species can live a decade or more (although many die when very young).

The little creatures seem to be curious about us. Sometimes they hover in front of our screens and look into the house. Once, I had one fly to within 2 feet of my face to stop and check me out. There’s something magical about having such close contact with a hummingbird. No wonder native Indians developed so many beliefs and myths about them.

When our tiny friends depart for the colder season, we will miss them and anxiously await their return to the high desert in spring.

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