Monday, July 14, 2008

A few thoughts about life in general

Once upon a time, a few years ago on a peaceful Sunday afternoon I was sitting in the living room reading a newspaper. (My natural habitat) I heard a thump at the window in front of the house. It sounded like a bird hit it, but the thump was way too small. Curious, I got up and went outside. Sitting on our front deck on its tail feathers, with its feet stretched out in front of him, and his beak stuck straight up into the air, was a Hummingbird. I picked the little guy up; he was too stunned to care. I brought it inside and showed it to my wife, Janis.

Of course she whipped right into “Mother mode”. She mixed up some sugar water. She gently held it in one hand while she drizzled sugar water down alongside its beak. I thought; “Well that should finish it off”. It acted like it was choking, but actually it was drinking the sugar water quite hungrily. After a few minutes it started looking around, and it became very alert. Janis took the bird back outside and sat with in for awhile, then she gave it some more sugar water and she opened her hand. The little bird sat there for a while then looked at her as if to say “Thanks” then it took to wing and very proficiently flew off to the South-West. And that was the very last we saw it.

The other day a friend of mine had a similar, but much more serious, experience with a Hummingbird. Some of the neighborhood kids tearfully brought her a baby Hummingbird that they said they found it in the middle of the road, and they wanted her to save it. They didn’t remember where they found it, so she couldn’t take it back. The little hummer had short little wing and tail feathers but most of the rest of her had pinfeathers. As luck would have it the lady had a Hummingbird nest it her art collection, so she put the nest and the hummer in a bowl with a plastic lid with a screen taped over the top. She made it some sugar water and started feeding it every half-hour with an eye-dropper. The bird soon revived and accepted the nice lady as her new mom.

My wife loaned her a large Parrot cage which the lady lined the outside of with gauze to keep the bird from escaping. She put a few branches and a couple of flower pots with blooming flowers in it. She put the nest with a hummingbird feeder in there also. It looked like a complete Hummingbird aviary.

She continued to feed it every half hour, by then she had added some other bird nutrients to the water. The little bird learned to squeak when it was hungry. In short order it had learned to hover, and feed itself out of the Hummingbird feeder, which must have been a huge relief to the poor tired lady.

She eventually placed the cage outside with the door open and made a feeder accessible on the outside of the cage. The bird is now living around her yard and eating out of the feeder. The lady fondly named the bird "Bitsy", probably because of it's size.

When the lady goes outside and holds up the eyedropper full of sugar water the little hummer flies right up and eats out of it. That must be an immensely rewarding feeling for the nice lady.

Now for a few thoughts: The reason that I have to keep this lady’s identity a secret is that it is very much against the law to harbor a wild bird. However, its perfectly okay to shoot a deer and have it's heart for dinner. I think that it has something to do with the fact that you pay the state for a licence to do that. I'm sure that if enough people were willing to pay for a permit to raise Hummingbirds it would be legal also.

Some other things that you should know: The mother Hummingbird feeds the baby partially digested bugs from her stomach to the babies stomach by sticking her beak down the babies throat, and into its stomach. If you can’t do that you shouldn’t try to raise a baby hummer. The lady was lucky that the baby was mostly grown, or it would have probably died.

Some other things that I looked up: the Hummingbird heart rate can beat as often as 1020 times a minute. It’s wings flap at 4800 times per minute. Here is a video of a hummingbird in slo-mo. A Hummingbird eats five times an hour, and it eats more than it’s weight in a day.

Hummingbirds go into a deep sleep at night called a “torper”. A torpid Hummingbirds heart rate can be as slow as fifty beats per minute, and their body cools off considerably. They wake up and come out of their torper by vibrating and moving around, about twenty minutes before they fly off to eat.

Do people care?...People do!


sarah said...

Very, very sweet story.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yeah, The words "sweet" and "Ernie" are often used in the same sentence.

See! It happened again!

Carol said...

It is a wonderful story, Ernie!

Zoe Ann Hinds said...

Torpor is a state similar to hibernation. Hummingbirds must enter this state to ensure that the birds won't actually starve to death before down. Torpor is a type of deep sleep where an animal lowers its hart and metabolic rate. In a state of torpor the hummingbird lowers its metabolic rate by as much as 95%. A torpid hummingbird consumes up to 50 times less energy than when awake. The lowered metabolic rate also causes a cooled body temperature. A hummingbird's night time body temperature is maintained at a level which is barely sufficient to maintain life. This level is known as their set point and it is far below the normal daytime body temperature of 104°F or 40°C known for other birds of similar size.

There are several types of torpor. The various types of torpor are classified mostly by duration and season. If the state of torpor takes place over a long period of time during the winter, it is known as hibernation. However, unlike hibernation, hummingbird torpor can occur on any night of the year so it is referred to as daily torpor or noctivation. Tropical hummingbird species also have rigid metabolic demands and even they rely on daily torpor to conserve energy.

The sleep of torpid hummingbirds is a sleep that is as deep as death. According to the book, American Ornithology, written by Alexander Wilson in 1832, torpor is described as follows: "No motion of the lungs could be perceived ... the eyes were shut, and, when touched by the finger, [the bird] gave no signs of life or motion."

Robin Shelley said...

Kind of gives new meaning to the expression "eats like a bird", doesn't it?
Hee, hee.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ernie...made me remember a fond memory of a hummingbird rescue where I got to feel its little claws on my finger for a few minutes til it recovered enough to dart off.
the Allness in the smallness!

Kym said...

What a great story! How did I miss this?

I once visited a home in the Santa Rosa area that had about 30 hummingbird feeders for 20 years. If you went out to fill them, hundreds of hummingbirds zoomed around some even landing on you. I've never forgotten the magic!