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January 7, 2014 > Pat Kites Garden Column: Hummingbird Haven

Pat Kites Garden Column: Hummingbird Haven

By Pat Kite

Hummingbird zooms past my front door, checking out the dangly Fuchsias surviving the frost. I, of course, do not interrupt. I say, ÒExcuse me, oh glorious hummingbird. You look so pretty today.Ó Perhaps flattery will make it return more often. Hummingbird gives me a little dark eye glance, hovering in mid air. Perhaps it is thinking, is this person a nice nutto or a dangerous one? Not sure, it extracts nectar from a fuchsia or three, and zooms away over my roof.

We are so lucky in this area to have a resident hummingbird: AnnaÕs. Males have a fluorescent rosy-red head with green back and sides. The female is somewhat plain, but may have a greenish hue on top or a little chest red. Mostly I hear a hummingbird before I see it. It will whir, whir, wings a blur. It will sit, almost invisible on a tree, squeaky Òchip, chip.Ó

During breeding season, which can start in late December, the aerial dive-bombing begins. Males can zip up 120 feet then zip down at 65 miles per hour. Mr. Big Shot is defending his ?-acre territory. Cup-shaped nests can be in unexpected areas. Any narrow support will sometimes do, such as a ladder rung. However, after the fun and games ceases, lady hummingbird gets to rear the two petite white eggs by herself. Hatching young, get flower nectar in the morning, insects in the afternoon.

Because of their beauty, plus ability to fly backwards, forwards, sidewise and vertically, hummingbirds were long-ago and even today, believed to have magical powers. They were surely messengers between worlds, the living and underworld. Depending on culture, these birds were considered incarnations of dead ancestors; harming them quite a taboo.

From the Mayan culture of Mexico and Central America comes this fanciful tale. The god that created all birds had a batch of leftover small grayish feathers. From them the god created a hummingbird. He was so pleased, he created another hummingbird. Next came a most splendid wedding. Butterflies marked off room space. Flower petals fell to make a carpet. Spiders spun webs to make a bridal pathway. Then, as the groom faced the sun, its rays made the male hummingbird glow with brilliant reds and greens.

A delightful Aztec legend concerns the god of music and poetry who would often take the form of a hummingbird. In this disguise, the god went into the underworld and made love to a goddess. Things happen, and a while later the goddess gave birth to the first flower. So pretty a tale.

Yes, there are other local hummingbirds besides AnnaÕs. Apparently Calliope and AllenÕs will visit in spring and summer. But Anna stays year round. Somebody asked me, ÒWhy AnnaÕs?Ó So I hunted around for info.

Anna Marie Rosalie Lamare married AndreÕ Massena, a French military commander during the Napoleonic Wars. An apparent friend was ornithologist Rene Primevera Lesson. He named AnnaÕs hummingbird after Anna Massena. I donÕt know why.


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