Hummingbirds are lighter, brighter than a penny

September 20, 2012|

Mayan legend that explains how these beautiful

birds were created from spare parts left over when the

other birds were created by the Mayan sun god.

The plumage of a ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus

colubris) shimmered in the early-morning sunlight as it

darted back and forth while sipping nectar from the

blossoms of a red-flowered rosebush.

Plus, it was so preoccupied with feeding, my presence

didn't appear to disturb it, even though I was a mere 3

feet away.

Mythological roots

My 30-second, close encounter with the hummer reminded

me of the Mayan legend that explained how these beautiful

birds were created from spare parts left over when the

other birds were created by the Mayan sun god.

The Mayans were a Stone-Age people who flourished in

Central America during pre-Columbian times. Legend has

it that hummingbirds were so happy with their god-given

appearance, they honored the sun god by flashing their

colorful feathers whenever they faced him — a practice

that continues to this day.

Partial to red

The male hummingbird that stopped by to snack on our

roses was typical of its species. Weighing less than a

penny, it was approximately 3 inches long and had

shimmering, rusty-red throat feathers, as well as shiny

metallic-green feathers across its back. Feeding on the

fly, it hovered and even flew backward as it invisibly

flapped its wings 80 times per second.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer nectar from red

flowers, and their long and needle-like beaks help them

get nectar that's too deep for even bees to reach.

Which reminds me, red-colored hummingbird feeders,

designed to dispense sugar water, work just as well at

attracting hummingbirds to a property as do red roses or

other red flowers.

Unfortunately, ruby-throated hummingbirds are migratory

rather than resident birds. In fact, the one that visited

me was probably heading south to spend winter somewhere

warm and tropical, such as Ecuador, for instance.

I wonder if it'll remember me and the tasty meal it

had at our place, then return next September.

This week in the garden

Before the foliage of our spring-flowering bulbs

withered and vanished, I marked what they were and where

they were planted, so I wouldn't inadvertently dig them up

when I wanted to plant more spring-flowering bulbs this


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