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Ruby Red-Throated Hummingbirds at my feeder
A busy buzz of birds
I watched in awe from my kitchen door at the number of hummingbirds lapping it up at two of my feeders. Against a gradually darkening sky, I marveled at these feisty flying jewels competing for nectar. As the wind picked up and the sky growled with clouds, the trees breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of a little more rain. More and more it sounded like a thunderstorm approaching. With a severe drought in Texas and scorched earth from fires raging through the state, the prospect of rain is greatly uplifting. As many neighboring states have been overwhelmed with water from hurricanes and tropical storms surging up the Eastern seaboard, states like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona have been thirsting for rain, the ground literally cracking up!
Imagine my sheer delight to see how the numbers of hummingbirds have swelled since I began feeding them during their migrations seven or eight years ago. As these fairylike but robust little creatures zip, dart and hover around the feeders for their nectar, they chirrup and chase to gain access. I learned only yesterday (thank you, Facebook), that it is the position of their tail feathers that creates the loud whirring noises. I was interested to see that a juvenile male, which had the beginnings of its bright ruby patch at his throat, commanded one entire feeder, whilst the other feeder was crowded with at least six females and juveniles at a time. This is the first time my feeder has attracted such a crowd. There were umpteen birds flying up into the tree overhead and a small distance away. Up and down they zipped and darted, trying to gain control of who fed where! As they shot up and up like bright bullets, my eyes were distracted by a V-formation of geese winging their way south, their calls ringing crisp and clear in my ears as they flew overhead.
Corpus Christi is part of the Central Flyway for birds migrating from North to South America and vice-versa during fall and spring. The hummingbirds need to fatten themselves up before their flight to Central America, across the Gulf of Mexico. The brave little hummers need to gain about 25-40% of their body weight in order to fly non-stop for about 500 miles – a trip that will take them about 20 hours of uninterrupted flying time. It is believed that each bird follows the same path their whole lives - and they can live up to about nine years.
It seems that the storm has passed us by! Perhaps it will rain tomorrow. I look forward to waking and watching these resolute little feathered friends vying for the prime spot at the feeder as they lick up to 13 times per second, with wings beating about 53 times a second! Sometimes I have been lucky enough to witness a male’s courtship display to females that enter their territory. With a U-shaped dive that starts from as high as 50 feet above the female, he loops around and then shifts to fast ziggidy-zaggedy flights while facing her! It is fascinating to watch these tiny birds zip around and then hang motionless in midair, wing beats barely noticeable due to their speed, as they look this way and that for competitors. I wish I had the kind of camera that could capture their activity with clarity, but my eyes and memory will have to do so for me! With hummingbirds on both sides of my apartment, and the pair of cardinals that have taken up residence nearby for the last two years and which are grateful for my steady supply of seeds, I am most content to have these angels living outside my walls and visiting regularly. They are music to my ears and comfort to my spirit.