A hummingbird tale
The day after Independence Day I sat on my balcony, waiting more anxiously than usual for my friend, the Anna’s hummingbird. The other day I learned from a friend that birds can be frightened to death by fireworks. That doesn’t surprise me. I endured five hours of unceasing misery the evening of the Fourth. If the noise bothered me so much, what might it do to such a tiny creature (3.9 to 4.3 in., 9.9 to 10.9 cm) whose heart already beats at a rate of about 1260 per minute when it’s in full flight? It drops considerably when the bird’s at rest, in a state of torpor.
When I moved into this second-floor apartment with a small balcony, I decided that I want to feed hummingbirds. I bought a feeder. Right after that purchase, I changed my mind. I’d figured these little flying jewels would be better off getting nourishment from flower nectar than from sugar water. I’d also rather look at flowers than a red plastic feeder.
I bought railing boxes and filled one with petunias for hummingbirds and planted pansies in a second railing container pansies for my own enjoyment and for bees, too; they love both kinds of flowers.
Weeks of waiting and watching passed. I wondered if a hummie was visiting my flowers while I wasn’t looking. What a delightful moment it was when an Anna’s hummingbird flitted up to a blossom and just as quickly flitted away while I sat on my balcony with my journal. Hummingbirds can fly vertically, faster than the blink of an eye. I hoped Anna would get used to me and come back and stay longer. The bees aren’t as shy. They don’t let my presence bother them.
During the last couple of weeks, the little Anna’s has shown up more often but didn’t stay any longer. Then, the other day it flew into my balcony space and hovered for several seconds in front of my face, apparently having realized that I mean it no harm and that a balcony with only two open sides was not a trap. Maybe this meant there’d be more and longer visits.
On the evening of the Fourth, there were hours and hours of booms and bangs. Five hours of listening to bottle rockets and mortars. I hoped my feather friend had a good place to hide. Had she survived? Would she show up today?
What a relief when a tiny feathered creature flashed vertically up to the third-floor balcony. Maybe all that noise yesterday spooked her and she no longer trusted me. But she’d survived and hopefully would learn to trust humans again. That’s all I ask.
Anna’s hummingbird is one of 360 species, which are native to the Americas, with a range from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. In the past, Anna’s used to live in Baja California, but have now spread to the entire Pacific Coast. They weigh 3-6 grams (0.10-0.21 ounces) One third of their weight consists of flight muscles. They beat their wings 40-50 times per second and can fly 25 mph (40 kmph) If they’re courting they fly up to 40 mph (64 kmph) They hover, they fly backward, and even straight up, like mini rockets.
Anna’s hummingbird, named after, Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli. Why anyone would name a bird that’s native to the Pacific Coast of North America after a European duchess, I don’t know.