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Flipping Over Hummers

Sometimes the biggest most satisfying discoveries come in the smallest, yet most complex miracles. So, be ready for it.

The day the inner voice said, “I am waiting for you in the flight of the hummingbird,”—not until then did I understand this tiny creature with such a big heart has an even bigger ability to bring mountains of pleasure at virtually no cost or waste of time.

The journey begins with the darting approach to the nectar of the flowers in our August garden. Perhaps, the Great Creator decided, there must be more than robins and wrens, certainly more than eagles, hawks, and turkey buzzards.

Therefore, I will design the hummingbird.

There will one day be hundreds of hummer species, and they will breed only in what will become the Americas. The smallest will be the Bee Hummingbird (2 inches, .06 ounces), the largest will be the Giant Hummingbird (8.5 inches, .85 ounces).

These creatures will have a long, curved beak, which will reach nicely into the deepest recesses of the nectarial world. We like to think of it as striving for the essence of the matter.

They will come to be called hummingbirds because of the smooth hum they will make (putting helicopters to noisy shame). Hummingbirds will be attracted by color. Human beings will come to know this and will devise red feeders filled with sugar water to hang conveniently for hungry hummers and human watchers. Kitchen windows will be a likely stage for front-row theatergoers. All seats will be center row front. They’ll not cost $100, not even a dime, and there’ll be no usher fussing about whether tickets are in order. Curtain time will be your time and nobody else’s. In fact, stay as long as you like and don’t fret about the trumpets in the orchestra pit.

Hummingbirds will not soar or stalk for worms, leaving that business for robins and such. Hummers, on the other hand, will have the ability to fly up, down, even backward and in this way there’ll be a practical educational value. Commercial aerodynamics involves fueling tanks and long runways—the hummingbird will suggest flexibility and adaptability in the survival of the fittest.

Does your garage door have a release handle painted red? Many do. This can confuse even the best and brightest of hummingbirds, who’ll mistake the gadget for a flower. They might enter the garage, looking for more flowers, become frightened by perceived entrapment, and react by flying up instead of out.

Here’s where an increasingly sensitive human being can be helpful. Quietly, carefully, take the hummer in the hand (it will trust you mean no harm) and take the bird outside—and release. You’ve increased the brotherhood of the bird. Of course, resist any temptation to cage the delicate creature. Let them be free.

Certainly, respect the sanctity of the hummer’s nest where the smallest of all hummers sleep—two white eggs will take only about two weeks to come alive.

Research for this View from Plum Lick report has relied on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia online at We thank this valuable source and also Google for other instant information, which could lead us farther down the path of other sweet discoveries. Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies, Boston, 1980, is also useful in opening new birdhouse doors.

As we have our breakfast on the best and brightest of mornings, we will watch the hummers and make notes about their habits. Perhaps in our regular sightings we’ll identify the species that calls our home their home. We’ll note the dates and the times of day, as nature continues to evolve. If we find a nest we’ll mark it down as a place to guard against intruders.

Bird watching need not be caught up in numbers of known species. The joy can begin with the hummingbird of here and everlasting now.

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