One afternoon last winter, my wife and I stopped for coffee and spotted a hummingbird sipping nectar from a feeder above the porch. Surprised by the sight, I asked the barista about it and was told the Anna’s hummingbird winters over here. Once home we found our feeder, mixed a batch of nectar and hung it in front of the bay view window. For several months, there was one hummingbird who visited throughout the day and a single batch of nectar seemed to last indefinitely; that is, until the local hummingbird experts scolded us for not cleaning the feeder and changing nectar regularly.
Hoping to attract more hummingbirds, we added 2 more feeders the first week of June and within the past couple of days, our little outdoor bistro has been “discovered”. It turns out that there are two species of hummingbirds here on the Olympic peninsula, Anna’s, which winter over, and Rufous, which migrate. Daily my wife, our cat Tigger and I, are dazzled by their gravity-defying displays of aerial acrobatics the likes of which any “Top Gun” can only dream.
Hummingbirds feeding are a fascinating and beautiful sight. Their iridescent feathers seem to change colors as they repeatedly probe the feeder with their needle-like beaks and long tongues. When they pop in to feed, sometimes it’s for a quick dip and sip all the while hovering, other times for a long draw while perched and at rest. And then without notice, they dart away just as fast.
When numbers increase as they have within the last week, their behavior changes dramatically. The arrival of migrating Rufous hummingbirds together with increasing numbers of Anna’s, has provoked fierce territorial behavior where one male perched atop a feeder arm to monitor the sky for rivals and from which he runs off every other hummingbird that approaches the feeders.
Of course the hummingbird’s rapid metabolism doesn’t provide for sustained territoriality, since perpetually they’re only a few hours away from starvation. Eventually the male tires and needs replenishment, whereupon all the other hummingbirds can jockey for one of the feeder ports and drink their fill.
From our point of view on the other side of the glass, such territorial behavior is ridiculous. Daily we clean and fill the feeders as soon as they draw down and the hummers have retired to their nests for the night. In the morning they’ll find clean feeders and fresh nectar in abundance.
Though we are separated only by a window, they seldom act like they see us. Instead, their behavior suggests they only see a reflection of themselves, for on occasion one will hover inches from the window, as if confronting their own image. If however we move toward the window, they will react to our movement. The same happens when Tigger jumps up on his perch to watch and chatter at the birds. They scatter briefly, then return.
Sometimes, their behavior is a delightful surprise, such as when my wife was watering the flowers and a hummingbird hovered nose to nose with her and stared for several seconds. Relating the experience to me, we wondered whether it was guarding the nectar from the very one who makes it?
Or did the hummingbird, for a moment, pause in recognition and thanksgiving of the one who feeds it ?
My own response to the Father at times seems like that of a hummingbird’s response to me. Gradually I’ve come to trust the Father as my fears are overcome and I’ve learned to recognize Him. There are also times when He is so quiet and still that I struggle to see Him and turn to prayer, asking Him to move or speak that I might know He is there and that He hears me.
As much as I enjoy providing for one of His most amazing creatures, I can’t help but turn my thoughts to the Creator and imagine the great pleasure He takes in watching us, His most loved creation, living and enjoying all that He provides. How I look forward to the day when He throws open the ‘window’ that divides this life from the next, and I see Him face to face.
JUST FOR FUN: I crunched some numbers to compare a 3″ hummingbird with a 6′ tall man. If proportionately the man was as quick as a hummingbird, he’d run the 100 meter dash in a little over 1/4 second. He’d also drink 21 gallons of nectar and urinate 224 times a day.