Rufous hummingbirds are amazing little creatures.
Weighing just over 3 grams (less than 1/10 of an ounce), these tiny birds fly further north than any other hummingbird. They travel a clockwise circuit of about 7800 miles every year: from their winter home in Mexico, they head up the Pacific coast to BC and Southeast Alaska for breeding, and then by mid or late summer, they fly back again to Mexico – but this time, via the Rocky Mountains chain. My mind boggles at their itinerary!
The males arrive in our region first each spring to establish their territory. We hear them before we spot them – their sharp buzz as they dive-bomb any human or other creature that could possibly be an interloper.
The females come a couple of weeks later, and much more quietly. Once here, they choose a spot and begin to build their nests – secretly, out of sight of the males, who would pose a threat to even their own young if they knew the location. One early spring I draped a few pieces of soft organic cotton lint from the dryer over the branches of the ocean spray bushes beside our house, and a day or two later I watched a female rufous carefully picking it off and taking it away. What a lovely nest blanket that must have made!
Once the young are fledged, our yard becomes a huge playground in four dimensions: soaring, diving, buzzing little hummers zipping about, trying out their new mobility, sampling the various flowers and learning the tricks of their trade. I’ve had some miss my head by mere inches as they zoom about the garden at break-neck speed. They seem to consider it a special treat when we turn on a sprinkler or water a garden bed with a hose nozzle – it’s shower time for hummers and they delight in hovering under the spray!
The female (or possibly an immature male?) rufous in this photo seemed to favor the summer rue in our garden over the sugar syrup in the feeder we provided. Who can blame her? Like us, she prefers organic food!