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)


The Road Home: The 152nd Anniversary Of The Battle Of Chickamauga

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park invites the public to attend a series of special programs commemorating the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga from Friday, Sept. 18 through Sunday, Sept. 20. In the late summer of 1865 the United States was reunited after four years of war, but the struggle was far from over. Americans, North and South, struggled ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Friends 6th Annual "Dunked" Fundraiser On Sept. 19 To Benefit Local Nonprofits

Chattanooga Friends is presenting Dunked for its sixth consecutive year to benefit four local nonprofits. The event will be held on Friday, Sept. 18 at Miller Plaza from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Dunked involves recruiting well-known Chattanoogans to take the plunge for a good cause.  This year, Dunked benefits Siskin Children’s Institute, Northside Neighborhood House, Boys & ... (click for more)

City, County To Spend Up To $300,000 To Improve Moccasin Bend Police Firing Range

The city and county will spend up to $300,000 to upgrade the police firing range at Moccasin Bend. The city and county earlier had made plans for an indoor firing range on E. 11th Street that would have cost over $3 million, but the plug was later pulled on that idea. Officials said a new portable building will be transported to the Moccasin Bend site. The project also ... (click for more)

Hutcheson Medical Center Takes New Cost-Cutting Measures

Hutcheson Medical Center has announced new cost-cutting measures as it tries to stop ongoing losses. A trustee has asked that the Fort Oglethorpe hospital's bankruptcy process be dissolved, saying it has accumulated over $5 million in debt during the 10 months it has been in bankruptcy. The board of directors for Hutcheson Medical Center voted Wednesday evening to suspend ... (click for more)

Vote To Save Graduate Medical Education Funding

As a resident physician at UT College of Medicine Chattanooga, I know first-hand the impact Medicare financing for Graduate Medical Education has on physician education and access to care for patients in our community and communities all over the country.  GME funding provides medical school graduates the opportunity to complete the required years of clinical residency training ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Black Lives Matter’ To Me

Between the time a 14-year-old boy was shot four times late Sunday afternoon on 7 th Street and a 20-year-old reputed gang member was killed Tuesday night on Willow Street, there appeared in my morning reading an article on “Black Lives Matter.” I read it because I mourn over what the black community continues to struggle with in both our city and our country. It is an article, ... (click for more)