Mornings in the backyard

I’ve spent the last few (early) mornings sitting in a blind or a chair watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed on the flowers in the backyard garden. Occasionally a male visits, but he is wary, hiding behind flowers where he is obscured from view. Two other female or juvenile hummers are bolder and will hover in full view on flowers about 20 feet away. Here are a few of my attempts to capture the action:

Oops, right search image, but wrong flower — a gladiola not open yet.

The reluctant male that couldn’t seem to face toward me to show off his gorgeous magenta bib.

I always thought Cardinal flower was the favorite target of hummers, but it turns out they like Salvia better.

Manuevering between closely spaced flowers gives you an appreciation of their aerodynamic capabilities.

Even by just entering part way into the flower, a hummingbird can tell whether there is a nectar reward there or not using taste receptors at the tip of their long tongue. This visit lasted less than a second.

To be effective at pollinating a flower, the hummingbird must insert its beak all the way in so that the flower’s reproductive parts, particularly the pollen on the anthers, will rub off on its head, as seen below.

Hummer is getting dusted with pollen on the top of its head; that pollen will rub off on the protruding female stigma of an adjacent flower the bird visits.

Ruby-throated Hummers have glittering green feathers on their back, which blends in well with the vegetation. So, at rest, they can be hard to spot.

Below is some HD video I took of one hummer.  You might not be able to see the video if you are reading the blog from your email, so go the blog post itself by clicking on the title of the blog in the email.  In the bottom right corner of the video are three icons. Click on HD to enable that view (recommended), or on the icon that looks like a speedometer to slow the action to 0.5 real time (also recommended). Click on the right-most icon to view in full screen mode (best view). It’s difficult to appreciate the incredible control these hummers have over their position in space until you slow it down. Click on the X in the top left corner after the video finishes to return to the blog post.

To learn more about the coevolution of cardinal flower and hummingbird pollinators, click here: https://bybio.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/a-perfect-fit/

17 thoughts on “Mornings in the backyard

    • Thanks for your comment! Yes, it’s a challenge — small bird, fast movements, bad light (early morning) then too much light, flowers blowing over the exact spot you were focused on…. and so forth.

  1. Great shots, Sue. I know from experience how hard it is to photograph hummingbirds. It was cool to watch your hummingbird video at half-speed. I did not even know you could do that on a video.

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