Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 61 - Ruby

For three years I hung up the hummingbird feeder in hopes that some small hummingbird would find its way to my yard.  I ended up throwing out sugar water due to the mold that grows on the inside of the feeders but I kept washing the container, refilling it and putting it back out there.  Each year as winter came I was disappointed that once again I hadn't seen the hummingbirds.  But with the same persistence of our squirrels last year I did it again.  I was so happy to see that a female hummingbird happened upon our feeder!


It was like magic.  Believing in something so badly that you want it to happen that it just does.  Now I wouldn't advocate that for a strategy for winning the lottery but its true that by placing the food out there, eventually they will come.  Soon I realized there were two female hummingbirds or so I thought as I saw our first Hummingbird who I named affectionately Anna was chasing the other female out.  She was extremely aggressive.  Once while I was sitting outside, Pearl, the second female tried to get a drink and Anna chased her in a winding circle upward like a tornado and went back to her lookout perch on the Palm Tree. 

You could tell Anna from all the others, she was the smallest but the fiercest.  She had battle scars on her chest and was very friendly.  She would sing to me when I went outside and wasn't afraid to eat from the feeder while I held it in my hands.  I started taking photos when the two would come and when I studied the photos later, I noticed there were not only two females but actually four!

It was a blessing just to have waited all this time for one, and I had been blessed with four.  You can tell the difference between each of them by their throat and belly markings.  Pearl has rows of black dots on her throat with one big black one, Ruby has one big red dot on her throat, and a baby who I hadn't named yet has a scar on her belly like Anna and one big dot on the side of her throat near her beak.  I think this may be Anna's daughter because occasionally Anna would let her drink from the feeder for a short period before chasing her off as well.


Anna's daughter
Then near November when my friends were here, I was talking about the female hummingbirds and mentioned that a male had never come throughout the entire summer.  Again as if magic had happened, a male ruby-throated hummingbird appeared!  I ran to get the camera and shouted, "Don't anybody move!"

Male Rubythroat
This year, the first hummingbird just arrived and it's only Early March.  The unusual thing is that the first one is the male Hummingbird.  Males are not monogamous and surely don''t help raise their young.

Hummingbirds have a short courtship, if any as the female lays the eggs and raises her young by herself.  Her nest is the size of a walnut!  Which assures me that I will never find it way up in the neighbor's oak tree.  The eggs are the size of peas, can you just imagine such a tiny home and kids? In fact the mother won't leave her eggs for average 18 days only to get small amounts of food that when the kids leave they are actually twice mamma's size! Then what happens next is what really blows my socks off.  All the young look like females.  "In August and September, young males may develop some red spots in the gorget.Gender identification is simple if the light is right: the brilliant red gorget of the male is unmistakable. More commonly, though, the shape and presence of white on the tail is a more reliable field mark." I checked all my photos and the tails appear to be white but now I'm not sure if Ruby is actually Rudolph.


Males migrate first in both directions which still leaves me baffled as to why the last bird we saw was a male. So Rudolph aka Ruby is the first one back. I love them all as if they were all my children.  The right thing to do is to love Ruby if she's Ruby or Rudolph.  It is who he is and maybe its my fault for not knowing enough to be able to spot the distinct markings to mislabel him in the first place.  I'm just truly thankful that when I asked God to send me "a" hummingbird, he sent not one but five  to me to enjoy, love and learn from. To be honest, I am a little worried though for Anna, I would be really mad if my son came back to claim my territory before I got there, or maybe I should be worried for Rudolph!

Interesting facts:
Body temperature: 105°-108°F (40.5°-42.2°C)
Wing beats: 40-80 per second, average about 52
Respiration: 250 per minute
Heart rate: 250 beats/min resting; 1200 beats/min feeding
Flight speed: 30 mph (48 kph) normal; 50 mph (80 kph) escape; 63 mph (101 kph) dive

A flash of harmless lightning, A mist of rainbow dyes, The burnished sunbeams brightening From flower to flower he flies. ~John Banister Tabb

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