Tuesday, September 20, 2022

'Waken to a hummingbird'


     "Yet by some object ev'ry brain is stirr'd," Alexander Pope writes in Book 4 of the Dunciad. "The dull may waken to a humming-bird."
     While I'm not quite ready to lump myself in with "the d
ull," it's true that I wasn't thinking of anything in particular when my attention was snagged by this hummingbird, spied through our bay window as it dined on the nectar within the clematis in full glory on our front porch. 
     I happened to have my phone in my hand, and immediately brought it up for a shot. Hummingbirds do not stay in one place for long, and I got off five images before it helicoptered out of sight. I'd never come close to photographing one before. 
      Only one of the shots is halfway decent, and I immediately wished I had simply stared at her (it seems to be a female) in appreciative wonder, admiring a bird that can fly backwards and even upside down, instead of trying to document our encounter. Though having a shareable picture did give me a reason to read up on hummingbirds, which are exclusive to the New World — the Oxford English Dictionary makes that almost sound like a flaw.
     "They are peculiar to America," it sniffs, "ranging from Alaska to Patagonia." 
     Performing my due diligence, I was charmed to learn that hummingbirds build their nests out of spiderwebs, decorated with lichen. As to which of the 320 or so species of hummingbird this might be, the choice is pretty much limited to one: the ruby-throated hummingbird, the only hummingbird found in the Midwest, though solitary strays of other species do get blown off course and wind up here. 
    Unlike this grey gal (lack of color indicates she's a female) most male hummingbirds are bright — Kenn Kaufman called them "flying jewels" in his Birds of North America. Their bills are often shaped to match the particular flowers they feed upon. They are also aggressive — a hummingbird will attack a hawk. Although the Encyclopedia Britannica, when making this startling claim, does not address the obvious follow-up question: "And how well does that work?"


  1. At leas a half dozen years ago, there was a hummingbird at my window box & it flew away before I could get the phone out of my pocket to get a picture.
    First time I'd ever seen one.

  2. We have a feeder in our yard to attract them. Amazing birds.

  3. I understand that hummingbirds are migrating right now to Mexico. It's amazing that they can fly two or 3,000 miles considering their only 3 in long. We had a couple in our yard this summer. No feeder. They like some kind of flower that the wife put out

  4. I'm guessing that the hummingbird's attacks on hawks work pretty well, given that hawks aren't used to such. Myself, I've never much liked to fight, but especially have been reticent about getting into a tussle with someone smaller -- winning such a fight would be losing somehow in my mind.


    1. It's not the size of the hummingbird in the fight...it's the size of the fight in the hummingbird.

  5. We have a hummingbird feeder and we have seen the little devils fight each other to the death, despite there being room at the feeder for all.


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