I was in my 40s before I saw my first hummingbird in the feather.

That day sticks in my mind clearly. I was sitting on a porch at a Unitarian retreat center near Highlands, North Carolina. Yes, I used to hang out with Unitarians as I once hung out with the Democratic Party. I have given up on both. They tend to be one and the same.

Definition of Unitarians:  People who have abandoned Christianity but can’t break the habit of going to church on Sunday. The first two times I married, it was a Unitarian minister who did the questionable deed. The third time was a Mexican judge.

Stick to Mexican judges. That’s my advice.

HummerWell, anyway, I was sitting on that porch when a hummingbird flitted through the bushes in front of me. It was exciting since I had never seen one.

Nowadays, I am very familiar with hummingbirds. After that day in North Carolina, I installed hummingbird feeders in my yard in Houston, and enjoyed plenty of hummers during their annual migrations.

And now, here on the mountaintop, I have hummingbirds year-round, and I still love seeing them. Hummers have odd personalities. They are quite brave. They will fly right up to you, hover and stare boldly into your face.

And they loathe their own kind except, one imagines, when it’s hootchy-koochy time. If there’s no sex on the menu, the last thing a hummingbird wants to see is another hummingbird. It really pisses them off.

They are the Siamese fighting fish of flight.

What brings this to mind? I was just downstairs in a rocker on the terraza, enjoying the cool morning, when a hummingbird decided to sit a spell on an aloe vera branch just a few feet away. It never gets old, and it’s always fun.

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(Hummer art by Olechka.)

26 thoughts on “Hummingbirds

  1. I also love watching them and have held several of them. My landlady and I hand fed one for a few days when its mother abandoned the nest after the first baby fledged. We were like proud mommies when it flew off finally.
    Along with their aggressive behavior they are very demanding. When their feeder is empty they will hover by our windows and/or open door, angrily chirping until I go and fill the feeder for them.

    If we have the door open they will fly into the house and look at us and then fly back out again.


  2. Aren’t hummingbirds something else? I wish I lived where they took up residence year round, but mine have been gone for almost a month, and I really miss them flitting around. 😦


      1. Buzz is an appropriate word, actually. The Cuban Bee Hummingbird (tiniest hummingbird and tiniest bird in the world) is called “zunzuncito” by the locals, which I think translates as “little buzz-buzz”. Since moving to Sedona AZ we’re very happy to have at least one species all year long.


  3. I love the iridescent colors of the hummingbird. They are bold little creatures. I’ve observed hummingbirds fly into flower shops several times to get a quick drink.

    One of the Spanish words for hummingbird is picaflor, which has a dual meaning. It also means a Don Juan who goes from flower to flower – woman to woman.


      1. Picaflor is the most commonly used word for hummingbird in Chile and I think several other nearby countries. Chuparosa is most common in Mexico, I’ve been told. But ALL countries (except the US!) call them “colibri”, which is the word Columbus took back to Europe to describe them. That’s a transliteration of the Taino language response he got when he pointed at one of them in the New World; it means ‘resplendent throat’. I know, t.m.i.


  4. They are the Siamese fighting fish of flight.

    Perfect description. I enjoy their not-so-civil disputes. But they are at their best at rest. One sits in my garden each evening and chirps its odd hummingbird buzz for five to ten minutes — before flitting off to wherever it puts its buzz words to bed. I like to think they roost together and then fight during the day for our amusement.


    1. Steve: People who live in less hummer-y areas don’t know, I imagine, the odd songs they sing. As for their fighting for our amusement, I tend to think otherwise. They get very serious about it.

      I once visited an area in southeast Arizona known for hummingbirds, and I saw scores of them sitting side by side in trees without a bit of dispute. Maybe they were on drugs.


      1. In Puerto Rico they fed hummingbirds sugar cubes in bowls under palapas on the beach. The birds were happily humming, or maybe buzzing. As was everyone else watching in amusement, while drinking their coco locos under the same shade. Quite an unforgettable sight and sound.


  5. Hummingbirds are my favorite bird. Unfortunately (despite what books may say) we don’t have them here in Massachusetts, and that’s one of the things I miss about Northern California.

    I used to stay at a hotel in DF that has a beautiful garden with fuchsias (favored by hummingbirds) and hummingbird feeders. Needless to say, the garden was always full of them.

    If I ever live in Mexico, I will have hummingbird feeders and attract as many as I can.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where the next-best birds are cardinals.


      1. I wish I could believe you, really. But I’ve lived here since 1997, and have looked high and low for hummingbirds, but never seen one.

        Have you personally seen one in Massachusetts? If so, where?


        Kim G


        1. Kim: Coincidentally, I was talking today with a couple visiting here from somewhere in Massachusetts, and the woman told me they have hummers there. Have you put out hummingbird feeders? I never saw a hummer in my Houston yard either till I put out feeders during the correct season. Then I got lots of them during that time of year.


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