Project Chekov: Hummingbird

So, we’ve had the big dogs in skies (the Eagles), and those that like a slow paddle in calm water (the Coots), so it only seems fitting that we have a post on the little dudes and dudettes that are constantly going about a 100 miles per hour.

You guessed it, today’s featured bird is the Hummingbird.  Out here in the Midwest (more affectionately called the Midtundra at the moment) we do not have a lot of variety when it comes to these birds so they are pretty easy to identify.  In fact it is ridiculously easy because a quick review of the Stokes reference manual confirms there is only ONE that frequents our area – most prefer to spend their time out in Texas or Central America – Guess catching that Black-Chinned Hummingbird in Vegas was a score (link here) seeing how that is the only other one I’ve really had a chance to check off.  Since this is from our backyard feeder (actually back porch feeder), we proudly introduce the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

This isn’t a new bird to the Blog – it actually appeared back in Oct 2012 (link here), so this doesn’t result in a check.  It does give me the chance to talk a little bit about a bird with some interesting characteristics.  First of all, the Ruby part of the name is VERY apparent when they choose to show it.  As you can see in the two males above can hide that coloring and instead show a more boring darker chin.  Not sure if this is a choice they have or if there is some specific angle that really reveals it – wait, getting lazy, let me check that.  So it is all about the angle of the light – there ya go.  Unfortunately, this set of shots must have had bad lighting since none of them really show that bright ruby color.  You can see a little of it below.

Hit the jump to read a little more about these birds and view a few more intriguing shots

From a behavior perspective, everyone likely knows these birds can move.  Zoom along straight as an arrow, turn in an instance as well as literally stop in mid air and hover there if they want to.  When it comes to flight maneuverability they are at the top of the ability list.  Wikipedia confirms that their wings operate in the 55 beats per second range.  I did just learn that their wings only attach at the shoulder which is an adaptation that allows Hummingbirds to fly backwards…. as in the ONLY bird that can do that, but never knew why until now.  This takes a lot of energy which is where I come in.

We manage a couple of Hummingbird feeders (one of them seen above, but also have a standard Best feeder they tend to like more).  This provides the birds with a good supply of sugar and water to keep those jets running clean.  If you have feeders of your own, I hope you are not falling for that special “nectar” stores sell to rip off unsuspecting bird enthusiasts.  Just get yourself a measuring cup and a bag of sugar.  4 parts water for 1 part sugar, put in a jar, mix it up and pour it in the feeder – no coloring needed, no fancy mixtures .. just water and sugar.  Do make sure you get all the sugar dissolved.

Here’s a shot that shows those wings at work – need to crank that shutter speed up if you want to try and stop those babies – I kind of like the ghosting since it conveys a since of movement.

There is one aspect of their behavior that was news to me until the feeders went up.  These cute little birds are vicious.  The first Hummingbird to a feeder will claim it for itself and proceed to defend it against any other bird that has the audacity to come near it.  As soon as the “squatter” spots a competitor it fires up the jets and tries to ram it with that missile of a beak.  This would be a bloody scene if their adversaries were also not equally adept at flying.  Here is a shot of one claiming an extra feeder that we placed on a table in hopes of giving access to a few more of them.  Nope, as soon as the new one was put out, one of them claimed it and proceeded to be an ass to the others without a feeder of their own.

These birds are clever.  The intruders will team up and attempt to distract the “squatter” and pull it away from the feeder.  As soon as that happens two or more will swoop in for a sweet drink.  When the “squatter” realizes it is being duped, it will cycle back and clear them out.  Impossible to tell if they take turns distracting since they all look alike to me.   This is a good time to mention that the Hummingbird numbers tend to fluctuate year after year.  Three years ago there were very few at the feeders – maybe 2 to 3 for the summer.  Next year there was 11 at the high end which made the battle for the two feeders quite entertaining.  Last year there was only 5 to 6.  Not sure what controls that at the moment, just something that’s have been observed over the years.  If you have seen the movie “The Big Year” you should already know that some of these Hummingbirds will migrate across the Gulf of Mexico, ~500 miles.  A feat they accomplish by storing massive amounts of fat relative to its body (almost doubling it).  If you have not seen that move – DO IT!

Okay, let’s close with an experiment.  One of the shots in the series accidentally went dark on me.  Some detail was brought out of the Raw while maintaining the nice background coloring.

After looking at it for awhile I decided the initial effect was pretty cool and went back to the digital darkroom and removed the recovered shadow detail.

What do you think?   Not only are the colors pleasing, but their gradation angle provides an interesting complement to the bill orientation.  If you like a little more tension in your shots, here is another shot that counters the color angle.

Think these will be nice book end shots – I’ll let you know how they come out if I get around to printing them.  With that, I’m going to let you go.  Have a lot of painting to get done for Project Auuuuunold which doesn’t leave a lot of extra time these days.  Catch you again real soon.

2 thoughts on “Project Chekov: Hummingbird”

  1. I like both the silhouette pictures–I can’t tell which one I like better.

    I thought the red water attracted hummingbirds–not right?



  2. Not right – the red really has nothing to do with it – just the sweet smell of nectar – they might be able to spot it better from afar, but it is basically a waste of money.


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