Life With Ferris: Spectacular Hummingbirds

Saturday, July 12, 2014 - by Ferris Robinson
Ferris Robinson
Ferris Robinson

Hummingbirds are one of God's tiniest creatures, but also one of His most amazing creations. Called flying jewels by early Spanish explorers, these iridescent birds are the only birds that can fly both forward and backwards. They can also hover in mid air, fly sideways and even upside down. The smallest animal with a backbone, some species of hummingbirds travel 500 miles nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico as they migrate. Their tiny bodies are incredibly powerful, but their feet are so weak they can barely walk on them; they are basically used for perching only. 

These little birds fly about 25 miles per hour, but when they dive, they increase that speed to 60 miles per hour. All that talent in something that can weigh as little as a penny, but not more than a silver dollar. 

These birds are worth much more than their weight in gold to me. They are not only highly entertaining, but are absolutely fascinating.

We don't have names for our hummingbirds; we can't even tell them apart. We assume they are Ruby-throated hummingbirds, the most common type for our area, but they could be rare Spatuletail hummingbirds for all I know. It doesn't matter. No exotic bird could be as memorizing as ours.  

They drink more than their weight in sugar water each day, and the way they battle over the feeder, you'd think it was the only supply on Lookout Mountain. I read on the internet how to train them to drink out of your hand. Hide your feeder and hold a red milk jug lid in our outstretched hand. It may take days of sitting perfectly still outdoors with your arm up in the air, but eventually the hummingbird will light on your hand and drink from the lid.

My hummingbirds are too smart to fall for this. Scientists say the minute birds are attracted to the color red. Hibiscus blossoms, bee balm, pineapple sage, and bright red feeders lure the bird to drink. But my hummingbirds come to my porch whether the feeder is there or not. We bring it in every night because of raccoons (they might be equally entertaining but we can't stay up late enough to know) and we put if back out every morning, bright and early. 

But we wake to the sounds of the minuscule birds dive-bombing the corner of the porch where the feeder is supposed to be. They hover impatiently in the square foot of airspace, defending the possibility of nectar, without a hint of red in sight. 

One of them actually peeks in our bedroom window, whirling his wings so rapidly they are a blur. "What the heck? Where's the food?" he seems to say. He reminds me of my brood at dinner, all perched at the table, forks in hand, actually saying out loud, "What the heck? Where's the food?"

For some reason the hummingbird is cute when he does this. My brood is not. 

Similarly, I am amused at the hummingbird’s intolerance of other birds at the feeder, yet irritated at my offspring’s intolerance of other offspring at the serving bowl.  

As if a single bird could possibly drink 1,000 times its own volume. They are not smart that way. Rarely do we see two of them perched at the same time, even on opposite sides of the feeder. They dive bomb one another midair, battling each other mercilessly for the territory outside my bedroom window.

My boys do the same thing with it comes to the X-box. To hear them carry on about the extra controller, you'd think there was a vat of sugar water at stake.

(Ferris Robinson can be contacted at ferrisrobinson@gmail.com.  www.ferrisrobinson.com)


Shakespeare Chattanooga Reads Classic Tragedy/History Julius Caesar On Ides Of March

Shakespeare Chattanooga performs a reading of the Bard’s Julius Caesar, the second play in the company’s three-play series at The Highland Center in Brainerd. The reading will take place at the Highland Center, 104 N. Tuxedo Ave., at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 15.  Suggested donation is $5. Directed by Shakespeare Chattanooga Producing Director Janis Hashe, the cast includes ... (click for more)

Hixson Kiwanis Club Hears Of Mentoring Program At High Schools

Patrick Hampton of Goodwill of Chattanooga discussed a mentoring program at area high schools in a speech to the Hixson Kiwanis Club. The club meets 3 at Creeks Bend Golf Club. The club also discussed the upcoming Somparac Award which is presented annually to a person who has served the Hixson community.  The award is named in honor of longtime Hixson Kiwanian, the late ... (click for more)

2 Hit While Walking On Birmingham Highway; 1 Dies At The Hospital

Two pedestrians were struck by a single vehicle on Highway 11 (Birmingham Highway) in Lookout Valley on Tuesday night. One of those who was struck died after being taken to a local hospital. Police said the other person who was hit was responsive. The incident happened shortly after 7 p.m. at 261 Birmingham Hwy. which is in the area of the Lookout Valley Cracker ... (click for more)

Henry Hopes To Bring E-Filing To Clerk's Office This Year; Saving Almost $222,000 On Personnel

Circuit Court Clerk Larry Henry said he hopes to bring E-Filing of documents and other court papers to the clerk’s office this year.   He said at first it appeared it might take much longer, but that progress is being made to the online program. Mr. Henry told members of the Pachyderm Club that attorneys, litigants and members of the public would be able to go online to ... (click for more)

Tennessee Deserves Better Health Reform - And Response

Tennessee needs health care reform. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," was not the best solution for Tennesseans. That is why the vast majority of Tennessee legislators never publicly supported the plan defeated in a special legislative session in February.   It is important to distinguish health care from health insurance. As one physician ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Happy Birthday, Mr. Berg

This past Monday we should have closed the Post Office, let kids out of school, and lowered our flags to half-mast. March 2 is the anniversary of Moe Berg’s birthday and the legendary Casey Stengel once said Moe was “the strangest man ever to play baseball.” Moe played major league baseball for 16 years, finishing with the Boston Red Sox in 1939 and a lifetime batting average of ... (click for more)