Hummingbirds

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The Zion Canyon camping area at Watchman on the Virgin River where hummingbirds flew over the river
The Zion Canyon camping area at Watchman on the Virgin River where hummingbirds flew over the river

Featured Image: The Zion Canyon camping area at Watchman on the Virgin River where hummingbirds flew over the river

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 July 2020

Hummingbirds

Preamble

The featured image shows just how adaptable specialist hummingbirds who migrate to North America are and have to be in the habitats they migrate through and to.

Hummingbirds are feisty and assertive out of all proportion to their size. They will chase off much larger birds from desirable flowers.

Fiery-throated metaltail hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Costa Rica, Wikimedia, Francesco Veronese
Fiery-throated metaltail hummingbird, Cloud Forest, Costa Rica, Wikimedia, Francesco Veronese

They remind me of a little Maltese terrier of my sister’s. A white ball of fluff who had no idea that he was only a small dog. I stupidly took him up in the bush on Black Mountain one day and for a kilometre and a half with the dog in my arms had to fight off the frightening attacks of a pair of swamp harriers, who thought he was close enough to a rabbit for dinner.

I’d like also to use the word aggressive for the hummingbirds but in ethology (animal behaviour) ‘aggressive’ is not to be used, as it is both too vague and anthropomorphic to boot (putting human traits, emotions or intentions onto animals).

As a young person, I thought hummingbirds were incredibly exotic and I wanted to see one. I failed when I went to Canada and travelled through America, Mexico and South America in my early twenties (see Winnipeg and International Peasant Foods). I didn’t see a single humming bird.

Consequently, I was excited when we went to the USA and Canada from May to July last year, at the hope of finally seeing hummingbirds in the wild.

I saw my first hummingbird at the back of the commercial camping area in Zion National Park, flitting and hovering over the stream — the Virgin River. Steve our guide said that he’d seen them there on previous trips. It was adverse circumstances entirely — almost dusk and cold. It hailed while we had dinner half an hour later, up to six inches piled in drifts around our tents. And it snowed overnight.

The hummingbirds — there were two — must have been catching insects. They were midstream. And there were no blossoms nearby.

Later we saw hummingbirds in our AirBNB accommodation in Portland, Oregon, which was near the river, visiting flowers in the garden. We saw them in numbers at nectar-feeding stations in the Butchart Gardens near Victoria on Vancouver Island in Canada. We also saw them regularly close-up on our back verandah in Chilliwack Canada. Visiting the pot plants and also the blooming hedges nearby. This was during a three-week house-sit in the Fraser Valley on a property overlooking farmland and a snow-capped mountain.

We also saw hummingbirds at the end of our trip in San Francisco, while viewing the Painted Ladies (famous Victorian Houses) in Alamo Square Park. Although seemingly ubiquitous up the west coast, we never grew sick of seeing them.

Hummingbirds are named for their genus and species, as are all animals. Common names vary from place to place and are not a good guide to the species. Thus the Rufous Hummingbird one of the species we saw at the Butchart Gardens has a scientific name of Selasphorous rufus and Anna’s Hummingbird is Calypte anna. The first word is the genus and the second the species, respectively.

Hovering, Free Licence, Needpix.com
Hovering, Free Licence, Needpix.com

We also saw hummingbirds at the end of our trip in San Francisco, while viewing the Painted Ladies (famous Victorian Houses) in Alamo Square Park. Although seemingly ubiquitous up the west coast, we never grew sick of seeing them.

Scientific names are always in italics (or underlined to indicate italics). The genus is capitalised and the species is lower case. What one can learn from the scientific name instantly is that the Rufous Hummingbird and Ana’s Hummingbird are not closely related because they are not in the same genus.

The scientific system of classification for plants and animals (and everything else, fungi, microbes and viruses) is called the Linnaean system of taxonomy. The system comes from Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) a Swedish naturalist before that it was not possible to precisely identify living things.

The formal classification of a hummingbird is Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Aves (birds), Order: Apodiformes (refers to tiny feet), Family: Trochilidae, Genus, Species.

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