May 4, 2008 6:37 AM   Subscribe

The annual northward migration is in full swing. The first time you see one on your feeder for the new season is cause for a big smile (maybe a little waving of arms). These little guys can weigh as little as a penny, yet will consume nearly twice their body weight every day. Have you guessed? Yes, it's a hummingbird flight of fancy. (Attenborough video) posted by netbros (26 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

My backyard if full of flowers and I dig watching hummingbirds. They are brave and will hover right by my face for a look or get a drink from the hose as I water. They have long been thought of as messengers.
posted by podwarrior at 7:10 AM on May 4, 2008

There's another wonderful resource on the northern migration that has been around since the early web days. Here's a quote from their website:

&quot"Journey North engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. K-12 students share their own field observations with classmates across North America. They track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, gray whales, bald eagles— and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events. Find migration maps, pictures, standards-based lesson plans, activities and information to help students make local observations and fit them into a global context. Widely considered a best-practices model for education, Journey North is the nation's premiere "citizen science" project for children. The general public is welcome to participate."

Spring's a pretty big deal in "Winter-peg"...
posted by sporb at 8:06 AM on May 4, 2008

I just bought a HummZinger and forgot to hang it up...
posted by lalochezia at 9:22 AM on May 4, 2008

It's snowing.
posted by sporb at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2008

If you have plum trees, hummingbirds are like locusts. Fly away, little hummingbird, fly!
posted by SPrintF at 10:07 AM on May 4, 2008

I just refilled and rehung the hummingbird feeder yesterday. Perhaps now they will stop sitting on the porch railing, glaring at me through the back door.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on May 4, 2008

The neatest thing I've ever learned about hummingbirds is their ability to go into torpor at night and during cool temperatures.

The neatest speculatory thinking about them was in the National Geographic article linked in this post:
They are certainly fearsome—gram for gram, perhaps the most confrontational players in nature. "I think the hummingbird vocabulary is a hundred percent swear words," says Sheri Williamson, a naturalist at the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory.
posted by Tehanu at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2008

Hummingbirds migrate!?

Huh. I learn something new every day. I wonder how long it would take if they didn't have to stop to refuel every 50 feet?

I love hummingbirds, but I have this weird response to them if they zoom up on me. The first thing I think of is "OH MY GOD GIANT BUMBLEBEE ATTACKING!" and I do the primeval dance of the waving off of bugs, arms flailing overhead.

I think the hummingbirds know this, because they seem to do it to me a lot. Must be great sport for them to freak out the large, mostly hairless ape. No, really. I've had them fly right up in my face at a gazillion miles an hour and then stop so close I can feel their rotor-wash as they hover mere inches in front of me before zooming off again.

I still remember being astonished the first time I ever saw one actually land and perch on something. Up until then I thought that it was just a myth. Now I watch for it, carefully, because it's about the only time you can see what kind of hummingbird it is, and how tiny it actually is.
posted by loquacious at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2008

"I think the hummingbird vocabulary is a hundred percent swear words,"

Ah, well that explains it. They aren't laughing at me when they zoom at me, they're swearing at me like drunken sailors and telling me where to get off.

Next time I'll try swearing at them in return and see if they stick around. Like mermaids do. Apparently the way to woo a mermaid is to swear inventively and profusely. Or so I hear.

Your mother was a bumblebee and your dad was a fieldmouse! Where's the sparrow you stole your stubby beak from, shortnose? You weigh less than a buckshot, you flower-fucking sugarsucker!
posted by loquacious at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Check out YouTube
posted by popechunk at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Not only do they migrate, they fly all the way across the Gulf of Mexico: "most apparently cross the Gulf, typically leaving at dusk for a nonstop flight of up to 500 miles, which takes 18-22 hours depending on the weather".
posted by gingerbeer at 1:18 PM on May 4, 2008

they don't even know the fucking words.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:51 PM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I guess the ones around here are some kind of "feeder bums". They seem to hang out all year round.
posted by snsranch at 3:31 PM on May 4, 2008

Here on the east coast of the U.S. we've got just the one species (Ruby-throated hummingbird), which migrates, but on the west coast there are multiple species. From what I have read, the Anna's Hummingbird is most common and is a year-round resident, so that may be yours, snsranch.
posted by Tehanu at 4:42 PM on May 4, 2008

That looks exactly like our little devils. Thanks Tehanu!
posted by snsranch at 5:16 PM on May 4, 2008

"Hummingbirds occur ONLY in the Western Hemisphere, with almost half the species (163 of 339) living in the "equatorial belt" between 10 degrees north and south of the equator." *

It's a shame our friends in Europe, Asia, and Oz can't experience the hummers. They are truly awesome creatures.
posted by netbros at 5:49 PM on May 4, 2008

Not only do they migrate, they fly all the way across the Gulf of Mexico

One of the craziest things about working out on seismic boats in the gulf of Mexico was the hummingbirds that would come along, fly around the bridge a few times and then disappear. They really are bad ass little birds.
posted by afu at 8:30 PM on May 4, 2008

it's the buzz they make! it doesn't sound like a noise a bird should make. it sounds like the noise a great big frakkin bee should make.

once, i was laying by a pool, wearing a bathing suit with large, colorful flowers. i was shocked when, after scratching a couple of times, i discovered that the "pokey" feeling i felt was actually a hummingbird trying to drink from the flower on my suit. poke poke poke.

it was actually a magical moment. other than the fact that i felt badly -- those boobies don't put out nectar, little friend! :(

thanks, netbros! fabulous post.
posted by CitizenD at 8:44 PM on May 4, 2008

How on Earth do they get more than one (or two, if a pair) within 50 feet of one another? I have a feeder and if one hummer tried to encroach on the feeder that another has claimed the tiniest dogfight imaginable ensues across the landscape of the next three yards until the victor comes back for a sip.

They are ballsy little guys, though, that's for sure. Aside from being strafed and scolded by them more times than I can count, when their feeder is empty, they'll fly right up to the window stare in.
I am certain that if it were open, they'd fly right in and demand it be filled NOW, fucker.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:41 PM on May 4, 2008

I found a dead one in a movie theater parking lot once. I was not the least bit hesitant to pick it up, put it on a leaf and float it down the stream behind the building, crying a little. It was still an honor to hold the beautiful gram of glitter.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 PM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do you have red hair, or like to wear a red hat? I have them buzz by me often, but I've never had them "get all up in my face". (Maybe they watch a bit too much Jerry Springer!)
posted by P.o.B. at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2008

We love our hummies. Absolutely crazy birds. Even crazier than the titmouses (titmice?).

This post needs a "batshitinsane" tag for the hummies.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:16 AM on May 6, 2008

I can't supply the batshit insane, but here's some bats feeding at a hummingbird feeder.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:32 PM on May 6, 2008

Better link

(I have no idea what happened there.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:36 PM on May 6, 2008

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