Things are not always as they appear!

By Dave Hanks

Once on a trip to southeastern Arizona, we took our truck in to a town to have it serviced. A rather “seedy-looking” man in a run-down pickup was also at the garage. I asked him if he worked on a nearby ranch. “Hell no” he said. “I own one.” “How many cattle do you own?” I inquired. His was a most surprising reply – “Sonny boy, count the stars in the sky!” We later learned that this poor looking man was a real cattle baron, very wealthy, and very influential in the community. Things are not always as they appear!

Hummingbirds are tiny and should therefore be meek and mild. Not so! These dainty creatures are anything but dainty. They are extremely militant and will attack anything that strays into their space. Especially if that space holds a hummingbird feeder full of sugar water. As one “dive bombs” a rival, another will sneak in to the feeder. It’s as if they are playing a wildly violent game. You can hear a constant “zing – zing – zing” that fills the air and the squeals of the trespasser, as he escapes the sharp beak of the attack bird. Once again – things are not always as they appear!

Tests done in wind tunnels have revealed hummingbird wings beating in a figure eight pattern at the rate of 15 to 80 times per second. They can hover and even maneuver backwards. This tremendous energy output requires a fast heartbeat. A body with this physiology, functioning at such a fast rate, requires special care during nighttime, especially when temperatures are low. These birds go into a torpor to get through the dark hours. Drinking sugar water, when returning to daytime activity, that is too cold can put the birds into temporary shock (hanging upside-down on the feeder perches).

These little birds are fascinating to study. But, don’t be fooled by their dainty looks. Remember, things are not always as they appear!

(The Rufous is the most aggressive of all)