I hope you enjoyed my last post about the hummingbirds that have been visiting us this summer. I really get a kick out of watching them out the window while drawing. They are very fascinating birds.
The other morning I let our cats Harley Quinn and Jarael outside and was having breakfast out on the back patio. I looked up and some of my little flying friends were back doing the same!
I was amazed by how loud their wings sounded as they buzzed overhead at the two feeders we have hanging. They would fly forwards, backwards, and hover before landing to enjoy a quick meal.
A couple would chase each other, buzzing and chirping. I’ve read they are very territorial of their feeding spots, and after some of the mid-air “dog fights” I’ve witnessed between them I believe it! I’ve never seen two sit and have a drink together. Apparently they like to drink alone.
Another thing I noticed was that they were flying from my house over the fence and to a tree in my neighbor’s back yard, and then back again. They had a flight pattern they seemed to follow.
They took turns- one would chase the other off their tree or feeder perch, fly around the back yard, or zoom over the house and out of sight- but they would soon return. There were at least two green ones, and a greyish one, too. The green ones were very vibrant, and the grey one(s) had a slight blue or red tint when the sun hit them just right. Really pretty.
They are amazingly fast, and would tease my cats by hovering, turning to look at them and me, and then zooming out of sight as quickly as they had appeared. Sometimes only the sound of them hovering or buzzing extremely close by my head gave them away. We had a few dragonflies buzzing around the back yard, as well as a couple butterflies, but they never stayed still long enough for me to get a shot of either. I may have to go to the Memphis Botanical Gardens again for those shots. My wife Nicki and I had our engagement photos taken there last year. It’s a gorgeous place to visit- near the U of M and Dixon Gallery and Gardens between Park and Southern.
The hummingbirds really liked to hang out in the tree after drinking, so I picked up Nicki’s Nikon D5100, slowly moved across the backyard closer to the fence line, and waited. The neighbor’s tree was just on the other side of it just a couple feet away. I tried not to make any sudden moves. Soon I saw a small blur speeding my way.
With a little patience, luck, and a 55-300mm lens I was able to “catch” them. Luckily for them- it was me and not the cats that caught them! You couldn’t tell it by how many times they ate/drank at my house, but apparently they only spend about 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% resting and digesting. They eat many small meals, but can easily eat more than their own body weight each day. Their metabolism is very high, but they can slow it down at night or when food is scarce, entering a hibernation state called torpor. They also can store fat for migration like other birds.
These tiny birds were performing incredible aerial maneuvers, and I was amazed to watch them perch on a leaf! There was a good breeze blowing that day. The branches in the small tree would sway back and forth, taking the tiny hummingbirds with them. It made catching them in focus very hard to do. It also made their landings a bit more tricky for them, but they managed to deal with it. Reminded me of a navy pilot landing on an aircraft carrier in rough seas. Amazing skills!
I had heard they had long tongues, but had never seen one in person. They would make Gene Simmons of KISS proud! I tried to get a shot of one fully extended, but only got this one which showed only about half out. “Gene” had just been to the feeder and seemed to be “licking his lips” as his tongue shot in and out of his beak.
Soon they will be leaving this area and flying south to Mexico or Central America. Hopefully they’ll find their way back here next spring.
I love having them visit and they are welcome around our home anytime.