Friday, December 11, 2020

Hummingbird hurrah! Let's hear it for this tiny, tenacious bird

This tiny hummingbird weighs less than a penny. We found him wounded on our patio and helped
him fly again this week. He's returned to his box to visit a couple times. Happy news! 

This hummingbird is probably a broad-tailed variety;
Keller caught him in flight near one of our Montana feeders



Editor's Note: Our rescue this week of an injured hummingbird found on our patio prompted several hundred replies to our Facebook post and a request for more on the hummingbird. Here's to this beautiful bird!


This hummingbird in flight was outside our
San Diego townhouse in the courtyard garden.
I'VE LONG loved the hummingbird, that tiny, delicate, but tenacious creature.  When I was a child, my grandmother let me help her boil sugar water then fill the feeders. (Four parts water to one part sugar, a pinch more sugar; boil gently for three minutes and change the water every few days.)

I've rescued hummingbirds from cats' paws and   Yorkies' jaws. I gently directed one from the rear of the garage when he flew in then couldn't find his way out. (I used a large red silk scarf to guide him.) This week, we helped a hummer recover from a fall on our patio. We fixed his dislocated wing, fed him, nursed him until he could fly. He's been back twice that we know of.
I'VE WATCHED with fascination as hummingbirds compete for the feeder.  I've been dive-bombed by hummers while gardening with a red or pink scarf on my red hair. "Why do they like red?" I asked my grandmother.  She explained that the bird's sense of color has to do with its dense concentration of cones in its retina. 
This hummingbird was enjoying geraniums
at the Montana place, in early July.

Amazing to me is the fact that the cones contain pigments and oil droplets in shades of yellow to red. Scientists say those drops act like filters, serving to heighten color sensitivity in red, yellow and orange, while muting colors such as blue, brown and green.
I TIP MY hat to hummers; they are small but mighty. They've also been around millions of years. The first hummingbirds developed 22 million years ago, arriving in South America from Asia.  They spread through that continent, then migrated to  Central America, the Caribbean and eventually North America. We've admired them on several continents, always marveling at their endurance and beautiful colors. We've logged five varieties in California, four in Montana. 
This little guy was at rest
at an Idaho rest stop.
To make a day's rounds of 25 miles, the hummer must beat its wings two million times. They must carry enough "fuel" to make a 24-hour flight and can travel as much as 645 miles in a single haul. (That's about twice our car trip driving limit of 325 miles a day.) They've been known to migrate several thousand miles with only a few stops.
Our little friend has been back twice to the box in which
he recovered from his accident earlier this week. 
HUMMERS HAVE predators, particularly free-roaming domestic cats. Their other enemies are windows, buildings, stationary objects. Sometimes, they're hit by cars, and they can encounter problems during migration and lousy weather. Like all of us, they also succumb to disease. 
Hummingbirds do return to a favorite feeder year after year, and can live three to five seasons. A few live long enough to die of old age.
 I WAS DISHEARTENED to discover that the male has little to do with the female or the young, once he mates. But no species is perfect. Keller defends the male hummer's actions, saying, "He's doing a lot.  He's carrying on the species."
We hope our little visitor lives long and prospers, and that he continues to visit us again and again.
He worked his way into our hearts in these few days, and we treasure the gift of his magical presence.

Many hotels in southern California are empty this week.

UP NEXT: With the first COVID vaccines being tested, and COVID deaths rising at an alarming rate, California is once again in lockdown. We look at the effect the pandemic is having on the travel and hotel industry.  A photographic foray through southern California this week documents the sad fact that many of our hotels are closing, with staff put on furlough, and beautiful rooms, pools, conference halls and restaurants empty. We explore these challenging times with a nod to science and the good that may come of it. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays at: Please share the link with like minded people.


  1. WONDERFUL! We love your nature posts best of all....hope you're traveling again soon.

  2. San Diego Bird LoversDecember 12, 2020 at 8:38 AM

    Such an uplifting story, welcome as spring rain!

  3. Tiny bird, big impact. Great story and photos. Lucky you guys to have two such lovely places to enjoy and study nature.

  4. We're so happy you have such regard for our favorite flying friend, the hummingbird.
    We have found fabulous "hummer hunting" in Costa Rica. Lovely story and photos.