BY JIM ARBER
For The Vista
Lots of remarkable things happen all around us. We’re aware of some but often miss the best parts. The amazing Little Hummer is one that we maybe just don’t fully appreciate.
These little hummingbirds fly all the way back from their winter homes in Southern Mexico and Latin America. This means, among other things, a long solo flight all the way across the Gulf of Mexico!
We have heard from some of our Gulf fishing friends that once in a while a little hummer will take a break on their fishing boat way out there in the Gulf. This can be for an hour or a day or so dependant on their compression ratio.
During this migration, a hummingbird’s heart beats up to 1,260 times a minute, and its wings flap 15 to 80 times a second. To support this high energy level, a hummingbird will typically gain 25-40% of its body weight before they start this incredible journey. They must in order to survive the long trek over land, and water. Since their little wings don’t soar or glide so good they gotta keep on movin.
Whew, sometimes we need a stopover at the local sleep cheap just on the way to Florida — and that’s in our comfy auto.
They fly alone, often on the same path they have flown earlier in their life. They fly low, just above tree tops or water. Young hummingbirds must navigate without parental guidance or who knows where they might end up. Heaven forbid they might end up in Michigan or Illinois.
They fly by day when nectar sources such as flowers are more abundant. Flying low also allows the birds to see, and stop at, food supplies along the way. They are experts at using tail winds to help reach their destination faster and by consuming less energy and body fat.
Research indicates a hummingbird can travel as much as 23 miles in one day. It can be especially difficult if they encounter a cold front as they fly over the Gulf. Strong headwinds, rain and cold make for a really bad hummer day. .
Every spring we watch for the little creeturs to return and it’s about that time in Fairfield Glade. In 2014 we got our first customers on April 5, in 2015 it was on April 6, in 2016 it was April 11. It’s time and when they get here they are exhausted, hungry and stressed out. Be kind, give em lots to drink cause they’re skinny and need some TLC.
We often thought that we had some of the same birds at our feeders year after year. Even had a name for them: we had Spike, Giacomo, and Bill but never really believed the same birds could find their way back to our feeder. Brains just too small for all that required data. Wrong, research has proven that these amazing creations actually do visit the same feeders. How can that be? Their brains can’t be much bigger than a pea. First ones back are Males, good thing we gave em male names eh?
As strong and durable as these feisty little guys are, they’re not friendly. They are loners for the most part and don’t believe in “playtime.” Fight time is more like it.
We can’t wait to see them little critters again. It’ll be very soon so get them feeders out there. We need to fatten em up.
Jim Arber is a freelance writer. He can be reached with comments at [email protected]