February 9, 2006

A Happy Find

Pixie and I were on the balcony today looking out at the trees when I noticed a small movement a few feet below us in the branches. At first I couldn't find anything, but then a flash of silvery green revealed a tiny hummingbird checking us out from a well kept nest. Spike and I have seen one or two hummingbirds outside our window in the few years we've lived here, but now we have one nesting only feet from the patio. It's quite a fun thing because you almost never see a hummingbird at rest. They don't use their feet very much and don't even walk or perch. But now I get to watch this mother hummer sitting on her tiny nest to my heart's content. There are even 2 impossibly small babies in the nest. They can't be more then 1/2 an inch long and all you can see are their mouths yawning open for goodies. The mother is hardly even 2 inches and a fantastic metal green color. I'll have to look up what species she is.

Like the good neighbor I am, I came inside and quickly looked up how to make hummingbird feeders online. Basically all you need is something red, and sugar water. Now I have two tasty looking nectar dispensers for my new friends. I know she probably won't use them right away, but I still find myself checking them every few minutes to see if she is taking any interest. When Spike and I were in Costa Rica last year we went to a hummingbird garden and I have been fascinated by the tiny birds ever since. Even though they are small, the are very brave and even aggressive at times. We were able to sit in the middle of an outdoor garden full of hummingbird feeders while literally hundreds of birds swirled inches from our face vying for the best spots to drink. I can't help but imagine my porch looking like that in a few weeks once the word gets out about my succulent homemade nectar.

I hope I don't scare the mother away with my constant gawking at her compact, civilized family. It does make me feel more peaceful to know that I'm surrounded my moms of all kinds right now. Maybe she'll even end up liking me.

Cool Hummingbird Facts:

- Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world
- For their size, hummingbirds have the largest heart & brain of all animals
- Hummingbirds have no sense of smell
- Hummingbird wings beat around 60 times per second
- Hummingbird hearts beat from 500 to 1,200 times per minute
- Hummingbirds are only found in North, Central and South America
- Hummingbirds visit 2,000 to 5,000 flowers a day
- Hummingbirds can consume twice their weight daily (approx. 10 calories)
- Their color is produced by refraction of light, not by pigment
- Their average speed is 45 miles per hour
- Their tongues are twice the length of their bills
- In addition to nectar, hummingbirds eat insects for protein
- Hummingbirds cannot walk, only perch
- Hummingbirds fly only 20% of the time
- The nest is spun by the female from spiderwebs and plant material, camouflaged with bits of lichen, lined with plant down
- Hummingbird nests average about 1-1/2 inches in outside diameter. A penny will almost fill the inside diameter.
- Hummingbird eggs are the size of a pea. The usual brood is usually two eggs, once a year.
- It takes hummingbird eggs two to 2 1/2 weeks to hatch.
- Hatchlings remain in the nest for about three weeks.
- Hummers typically live five years.
- Hummingbirds have split tongues, which they fold into a tube when feeding.
- Hummingbirds cannot become addicted to the nectar you put out in your feeder. They will leave the feeders when they need to. You do not have to worry about their staying too long for the easy food.
- Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, shift sideways and stop in mid-air.


A Ripple Effect said...

That is amazing! I remember having hummingbirds in our garden when I was a child ... but never a nest!

Katherine said...

I learned about hummingbirds hearts and how they are wired. If their heart misses a beat they drop dead! My heart was wired like that and went way to fast... not good for humans.

kelsey said...

Wow. How fun. And tiny--a penny almost fills the nest and there are two little babies in there. Amazing!

Doug Taylor said...

Once Keith was at Grandpa Earl's house and picked up the BB gun Earl keeps close to the back door to fight off poaching birds from his humming bird feeder. Keith watched the birds zipping around the feeder and in a fit of Taylor-ness thought, "There's no way I can really hit one of those things..." Sure enough, he popped one square between the tiny eyes. He picked up the bird, held it in his hand and the mate came and hovered a few inches away, darting in circles around its dead companion for several seconds - examing, waiting. Finally it darted away, along with Keith's pride over a great shot.

Catherine said...

More! More! More! I'm thinking about your hummingbirds incessantly. You discovered a whole universe that is tiny and beautiful and right out the window. The same thrill as reading Gullivers Travels for the first time before discovering that it really is just a matter of being too big to see any faults in the liliputians that made them so great because the brobdingdags(?) were so nasty.

Blah blah, you must get a better picture of the babes before they escape! Scare the mommy right out if you have to. Hmmm. maybe the big ones really are awful.

Sarah said...

Kaff - I love your comments! There is no action from the nest and she hasn't used my feeders yet as far as I can see but I keep checking on her. I'll see about posting a picture of the babies for you.

Doug - I can't belive my uncle shot and killed a hummingbird. He is going to hell for sure. That's an amazing story though!

Foxy said...

Check out this man's photojournal of a hummingbird nest in his backyard.
Besides Penny, it's is the most adorable thing I have seen in a long time. Well, except for the fratricide incident in the 2003 journal.