Blue-throated, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Buff-bellied, Broad-tailed
July 10, 2021 10:14 AM   Subscribe

While not as chonky as certain brown bears, hummingbirds have their own summer of gorging... on nectar 🌺 & insects 🕷️ in order to double their weight as they prepare for their fall migration (and feed their young in sometimes precarious nests). Males head south as early as mid-July, with females leaving next, and finally the young who migrate for the first time all alone. The Rufous may migrate as far as from Alaska to Mexico. Citizen science site Journey North has this year's migration news, as well as a time-stamped map of sightings.*

Hot off the presses is Jon Dunn's (audio interview and print interview) The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds.
Bird & Bloom Magazine's recommended books on hummingbirds includes Sy Montgomery's The Hummingbirds' Gift (short excerpt).

* See also Hummingbird Central's 2021 map of spring sightings in the U.S. and Canada.
posted by spamandkimchi (15 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Hummingbirds are badass...

My neighbor has a small tree in her front yard. And there is one hummingbird that really likes one particular branch. And chills there almost every day for a bit. Same bird, same particular spot on the same particular branch.

Wonder if he will come back next year and do the same.
posted by Windopaene at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

There was also an interview with John Dunn on the American Birding Association's podcast a few episodes ago.
posted by kmkrebs at 12:19 PM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is my second year with hummingbird feeders, and I could watch them for hours and hours. I'm in the northeast U.S., so I only see ruby-throated hummingbirds, and it seems like the females are bolder than the males. I feed them from my apartment balcony with window boxes and nectar feeders. The ladies have no fear about cruising by my head while I sit out there and hovering in front of me to either get their investigatory fill or challenge me for the feeders. Maybe both. Tiny, perfect, bold badasses.
posted by gladly at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

Jon Dunn is the coauthor of a couple of editions of the excellent National Geographic's Field Guide to the Birds of North America and a guide for WINGS bird tours (also, first-rate). I heard from one of his coworkers that his political opinions are "out there" but he was too discrete to elaborate. Anyone been on one of his Alaska tours?
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2021

In Chicago, we were extremely lucky this spring to have a rare visit from a broad billed hummingbird. They're usual northern range is southern Arizona, this was only the 2nd time one was recorded in Illinois. Usually we are lucky enough to have ruby-throated, such beautiful creatures, I never get less than thrilled seeing or hearing one, even with their daily visits to my yard.
posted by j810c at 6:09 PM on July 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

We are also among those with great gratitude for the hummers - one feeder on our front porch allows us to regularly have the chirping, darting, diving, hovering sweeties a mere 12-24" from our heads and watch them from below as they drain the feeder between alert checks of their surroundings and regular swoops up to the Elm branches from which they'll swift bomb all challengers.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 7:20 PM on July 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Most bird books will tell you that the Rufous Hummingbird is commonly found in coastal Alaska (where I live) during its seasonal migration. Fewer will mention that the Anna's hummingbird has been increasing its range into this part of the world.

This was the first year I had year-round hummingbirds, with a few of the not-as-migratory Anna's staying over the winter. They provided a bit of joy in an otherwise bleak winter but it was the source of some stress as well -- I was very anxious lest I fail the hummingbirds who I imagined were dependent on my feeder. And after every winter gale (the winds of many of which were powerful enough to peel back the sheet metal roofing on the derelict house down the hill from me) I was relieved when, after things had calmed, I would hear their distinctive chirps or see them returning to the feeder, and heave a sigh of relief knowing "my" birds had survived. It was a pretty stormy winter this year, so I was pretty relieved when spring finally arrived. Perhaps I needn't have worried -- they are clearly far tougher than I expect them to be, but even so they're still incredibly delicate and fragile..

This time of year they're all over the place (before I moved here I never would have thought of Alaska as full of hummingbirds but it so totally is, at least this part of it) fighting their little aerial dogfights over my deck, defending the territory around the feeder, flitting from container to container in my garden, perching on the telephone wires or the branches of the tree right outside my window, waiting out the occasional rainstorm, and even giving me side-eye glances through my bedroom window.

I was, as it happens, talking to my neighbor just yesterday to ask whether he, too, had seen a drop in visitors to his feeders. In my experience the feeder traffic comes and goes in waves -- something that they like will go into peak bloom for a while and they'll have no use for the feeders, and then a week later they'll all be back sucking down the sugar water -- but I was wondering if perhaps the dip I've been seeing lately is different and the Rufous males have begun their departure already.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:32 AM on July 11, 2021 [6 favorites]

[mods: I had some trouble with my imgur links and didn't manage to correct them before the edit window closed, but if someone wanted to replace the "waiting out the occasional rainstorm" link in the response above with this one, I didn't quite manage to get that in under the wire..]
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:40 AM on July 11, 2021

Hi Nerd of the North: All three links you shared loaded for me. Maybe a mod had already corrected the link. The birds are so cute! Thanks for sharing the pictures!
posted by cynical pinnacle at 6:36 AM on July 11, 2021

Every single hummingbird thread is required to have a link to Zefrank's fantastic video "True Facts: The Hummingbird Warrior". You're welcome.
posted by jeremias at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Hummingbirds are so badass. If there's any other animal with more guts and sheer assholery per ounce on the planet I don't want to meet it.

We're just lucky that hummingbirds are so small, aren't carnivorous and are generally always in too much of a hurry to have time for our shit otherwise they'd be flying around knifing people with their beaks and hauling off fully grown adults. They obviously would see nothing wrong with just zipping around and plucking out people's eyes like bloody martini olives on a skewer.
posted by loquacious at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Yes, they'd be terrifying if they had any mass to work with.

(But then they wouldn't be hummingbirds.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:35 PM on July 11, 2021

I wish we had hummingbirds in Europe! I am in awe of how far such tiny things migrate (the same goes for migrating butterflies), and of how aggressive they are, although I suppose if I lived on nothing but sugar I'd be pretty hyper too. I think the nearest we have to their general attitude here is the (European) robin, which is also small and remarkably aggressive - they have a reputation for being friendly, but that is just because they have no fear of humans just because we are several thousand times their mass.
posted by Fuchsoid at 8:47 PM on July 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is the first year I've been lucky enough to see male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at my feeder. In the past, my timing has been that I've only seen females.

Also, I have known how the 100th meridian is something of a border in the continental US, but seeing where the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is on that spring migration map really brings it home.
posted by stannate at 8:26 AM on July 12, 2021

I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

- D.H. Lawrence
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 8:34 PM on July 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

« Older Tripping in LSD's Birthplace: A Story for "Bicycle...   |   Niftski and 420 blazeit, when the frame rule fell Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments