Hummingbirds are one of the most fascinating and beautiful bird species that come to our yard each summer. The black-chinned, the broad-tailed, and the feisty rufous are the three species we see most often. Competition for nectar can be fierce, and it’s exciting to watch their aerial acrobatics as they buzz back and forth to determine the “owner” of our flowers!
It’s all about nectar ….. a commodity somewhat scarce in the desert, especially during a drought.
So there I was checking out the handful of delicate aloe flowers on the 6 foot tall flower stalks, when a male black-chinned hummer seemed to appear out of thin air! He immediately began sipping from each of the open flowers, totally oblivious to my presence! Being awe struck, and completely incapable of turning on my camera, I just gawked …… what a magical encounter!
Then all at once, this hungry guy came to a screeching stop, in mid-air, and turned to face me, not more than 8” from my face. Did he finally realize I was standing there? For a good 15 seconds (or for 1,200 wingbeats) he just stared me down, as if to say, ”Hey! This is my nectar patch!” (Wow ….. ok, yes ….. whatever you want, I thought.) To emphasize the point, he ever so slightly twisted his head causing those velvety black throat feathers to catch the sunlight in just the right way to flash a brilliant bright iris blue half-moon pattern directly at me! My first and only words during this encounter were, ”You’re gorgeous!”
In an instant he was gone!
Yes, it’s all about nectar ……. here’s a fun fact shared by allaboutbirds.com …….
“The Black-chinned Hummingbird’s tongue has two grooves; nectar moves through these via capillary action, and then the bird retracts the tongue and squeezes the nectar into the mouth. It extends the tongue through the nearly closed bill at a rate of about 13–17 licks per second, and consumes an average of 0.61 milliliters (about one-fiftieth of a fluid ounce) in a single meal.” I also read that when nectar is scarce, these hummers will supplement their diet with small insects. Right now we have plenty of nectar and gnats to keep these high energy birds going and going!
What birds are you observing in your backyard or neighborhood?