“Jewels of Nature”
©Monique F. Rea 2010
These jewels of nature wear shimmering green coats. Allen’s hummingbirds are accented with warm golden sienna brown. The adult male wears an iridescent copper collar under
his beak and a copper crown. An adult male Anna’s displays a garnet throat and crown. The Costa’s adult male sports a purple collar that extends out like whiskers. The female of these
species keeps her color limited to green with buff underside and maybe a dot of color below her beak. One hummingbird requires nectar from 400 to 1000 flowers each day. Their size
does not diminish their power and aerodynamic skills. Hummingbirds are extreme acrobats in the air. The male displays his brilliant colors by the light refracting from microscopic
bubbles in his feathers to attract the females. Once he has accomplished what he set out to do, the work then begins with only the adult female who is a nest builder extraordinaire and the
sole architect. Each female uses her architectural creativity incorporating nature’s flora into her design. A walnut size nest is carefully shaped to hold precious cargo. Her nest is
deceivingly delicate made of plant fibers and leaf matter. She sometimes lines it with animal fur or the velvety coating from under a Sycamore leaf. The outer surface is camouflaged
with bits of leaves or lichen, even paint chips or Astroturf, woven together with spider’s silk threads that hold firm the shape yet allows expansion when needed. Her nest is anchored
with spider’s silk to the branches of a formidable rose bush, a Ficus tree, wind chime or Juniper. She carries many small pieces of downy morsels in her beak to line the nest and
then stomps and presses them down with her determined tiny feet to prepare for the arrival of two white small bean size eggs. They are laid two days apart. If fortunate to watch these
amazing architects, you are captured by their beauty and determination. The day following her progeny pearl’s hatching is the beginning of her first 21 days of intense food gathering
and sheltering from the elements. She alone collects sweet nectar from the flowers and catches small insects making a tasty meal for her young as well as for herself. We are touched by
the mother’s attentiveness and amazed how small her babies are. They look like tiny black raisins. At two weeks they have their own coat of feathers and their beaks begin to poke
out of the nest. The third week there is no more room for mama. She’ll sit on a branch close by, staying alert and continues her feeding schedule. The chicks begin rapid wing flutters while
gripping the edge of their nest. It will not be long before the first born will leave. A few days after the second chick ventures away from the nest. They have made their first step to
maturity but will need mama to feed them for another week or two. They chirp repeatedly a call so she can find and feed them. The juveniles will pick their own territory and will
establish their independence. Not until after their first molt and the following year will they exhibit their adult plumage. In time they will zoom through the air, will hover while sipping
the nectar from the flowers and catch unsuspecting bugs. The cycle of a hummingbird’s life expands with the new generation.
These “Jewels of Nature” will charm your garden and color the landscape around you.
We were fortunate to watch Phoebe, an amazing architect and hummingbird mother.
The unfolding drama came from a live cam’s point of view.
We were captured by her beauty and dedication.
A forceful rain and wind storm arrived the same time that her two chicks hatched. The days
following her progeny pearl’s hatching was the beginning of 21 days of intense food
gathering and sheltering from the elements. Phoebe drank sweet nectar from the flowers and
caught tiny insects making a tasty meal for her young as well as for herself.
We were touched by the mother’s attentiveness and in wonder of how tiny her babies were.
Three days after hatching one of her chicks died but Phoebe carried on with feeding her
remaining hatchling. We watched each day Phoebe feeding her chick. We named her,
Sassy. Sassy’s eyes haven’t opened yet but she instinctively opens her short beak for food when
mama whirls into the nest.
Sassy’s eyes open, her little head and body are bare. She’s eager to eat what Phoebe has for her.
We are approaching the second week of observation. There are only some wing feathers
emerging, no feather coat on her back or feather cap. There is expressed concern about Sassy’s
development but Phoebe is still very attentive and feeds her generously.
Serious concern has consumed the viewers. It’s the third week and Sassy has only developed her
wing feathers. She tried to preen her featherless back. She had fallen behind her scheduled
timetable to fledge.
It’s now a month since she hatched. This morning Phoebe has not returned for over an hour and
Sassy is calling. Phoebe comes to her call and feeds her once more.
Her rescue is paramount. Sassy is carefully removed from the nest and taken to a rehab center for
special care. The live cam views an empty nest and Phoebe visits to confirm that her chick is no longer there.
The following day, the news is sad, Sassy has passed away. Her short life intensely touched all of
us who watched from the day she hatched. Love and care were not spared. Phoebe was
determined but the timetable told her she must prepare for new life.
All who knew Sassy will always be grateful to her for sharing her life with them.
May her wings carry her into a hummingbird garden of nectar and forever be a jewel of nature.