Monday, December 12, 2011

Unexpected Visitor

This little hummingbird has been hanging around since mid November. At first I was certain I had imagined the familiar buzzing sound that zipped past. All our resident Ruby-Throated hummingbirds have been gone for weeks. But it turned out to be a real live hummingbird, not a figment of my imagination. At first I worried myself into a frenzy each night that the temperature dropped below 32 degrees. But the Internet provided a fascinating glimpse into how hummingbirds cope with cold nights by going into a slowed metabolic state called "torpor." If you have time, read the linked article. It's fascinating!

When the little bird continued to show up into December and nights dropped even colder, I called the local hummingbird experts at Wild Birds Unlimited for advice. They recommended putting out fruit in an effort to attract fruit flies, which the little bird needs for protein. My first effort, placing an old banana and a pear core on a plate under the hummingbird feeder, succeeded only in nourishing some nocturnal visitor that very first night. It was gone in the morning. My latest effort seems to be working better. I had a large suet cake cage in the garage, and with a little improvisation have been able to make it work.

The funny thing is that this little hummer seems to have taken up with the group of birds I feed regularly. When the chickadees, titmice, cardinals, rufous sided towhees and juncos appear for their morning breakfast, so does the little hummer. They hang out together in the large rose bush outside the kitchen window.

Yesterday morning, it appeared to be feeding (or trying to feed?) from the blossoms of the Pieris Japonica shrub under the hummingbird feeder. The temperature gauge next to the bush read 22 degrees, but the hummingbird seemed perfectly fine, flying back and forth from the feeder to the rose bush with the other birds, and then to the Pieris shrub. It was camouflaged pretty well perched in the branches, but using my telephoto lens and contorting my body a bit, I got a photo of it from the front.

I've been studying photos on the Internet, and my best guess is that the little visitor is a female Allen's hummingbird. But she could also be a Rufous hummingbird. The Rufous lives on the West Coast, and Allens is common only in coastal California. How did you end up here in North Carolina little hummer? Too bad you can't talk!

The feathers on her back are so beautiful, a bright emerald green!


  1. How fun! I love that you get beautiful creatures in your backyard...we only get rats!

  2. Wonderful story and photos; my goodness, sending WARM energy and prayers to the wee hummer!

  3. Wow! I hope he sticks around awhile!

  4. Sweet story and how kind of you to help! Like the hummingbird, I too develop torpor when it gets too cold!!!

  5. oh we love those little things
    Benny & Lily

  6. Love hummingbird but I never could to take a good photo of them...they don't still...
    It is so beautiful seeing the hummingbird hang out with anothers birds in the rose bush.
    So kind of you to search a way to help this little creature!
    Did you know that in Portuguese this bird is named "beija-flor", that means "kiss flower"?

    Thanks for your visit and nice comment on my Jaboticaba post. If I could I would send you a box full of jaboticabas. I bet you would love them.

  7. I love watching the birds in our back yard. One year we had a hummingbird near our butterfly bush. I tried putting out a hummingbird feeder, but he/she went away and never came back. :(

  8. What a pretty little bird, beautifully captured!

    I just read your comment on Vicki Lane's blog.
    I have exactly the same memories of thin strips of tinsel and, by sheer serendipity, I put a link to a picture of it in my comment there.

  9. What a mystery! I hope she moves south soon.

  10. Hi Brenda, I agree with you, the name of the hummingbird in Portuguese is beautiful and perfect. I googled and found a link where you can hear the pronounciation of beija-flor. Click
    Aqui. Please, let me know if the link works. :)

  11. I mean Click HERE

    HERE means AQUI in Portuguese.

  12. Just catching up on some blog reading.. those are fantastic pictures!