Even though I know that life is random, sometimes I get a kick out of trying to make patterns out of the chaos. So when I found this hummingbird tail feather on the same day I did my post on hummingbirds, I decided that it was a sign that I should do a follow-up. Whether it was, in point of fact, an actual sign is irrelevant. Because I decided that it was a sign, and because the sign has impacted my behavior through my writing of this post, both my decision and my actions makes the sign a sign even if it wasn’t really a sign at all. See how that works?
Why is this sign relevant? It all starts with information I left out of Friday’s post. See, I had no idea that so many people out there were colossal hummingbird geeks like me, so I only talked about the hummingbird’s astonishing speed during its courtship dive. You know, because speed is sexy. I left out the part about the sounds the hummingbird makes during the courtship dive. The sounds he makes with... (insert dramatic music here) ...his tail feathers.
It’s a real treat to see a hummingbird perform one of these courtship dives, or what I call “The Big Move.” Usually, a female sits nearby on a twig while the male hummingbird swoops back and forth in front of her in a pendulum motion. After ten or so passes in front of the female, the male hummingbird will rocket straight up in the sky until he’s well over a hundred feet up, then he’ll turn around and dive back down towards the female at over 50mph and pulling 10 g’s. The noise the male emits while he executes this dive sounds surprisingly like the Jetsons’ spaceship. For reals.
At the end of the dive, when he’s in the best view of the female, the male will pull up out of the dive and emit a loud “chirp,” which is explained in the informative video posted below. Glaven.
What Dr. Clark was able to prove through these amazing high-speed videos is that the noises the male hummingbird makes during The Big Move aren’t vocalizations. Rather, the hummingbird is able use his tail as a reeded instrument, and he can manipulate the air speeding over his tail feathers to create a song as he dives. His precious, precious tail feathers.
I've loved hearing from people who are as fond of hummingbirds as me. Lots of you liked the necklace, and I really love the idea that the designer, Michael Doyle, is sitting somewhere out there in the internet ether, wondering why he’s suddenly received so many orders for hummingbird skull jewelry. Some of you shared your own hummingbird stories. One of my friends had a very cool late-night hummingbird encounter on the day she read my blog post, and another of my friends told me about how he routinely kicks back on the lawn with his family in the evening just so they can all watch the hummingbirds together.
Sweet as these stories are, though, one of the things I find most interesting about hummingbirds is their aggression. One of my friends wondered about what would happen to humans if these little warriors were the size of eagles. He even went so far as to contemplate putting growth hormone in his hummingbird feeder in order to find out.
I think this would be a bad idea.
I have two hummingbird feeders which I keep full of clean, sweet, sugar water at all times. It's fair to say that the hummingbirds in my yard have a constant and unending food supply and are never left wanting for anything. Yet despite this artificial Nirvana I've created for them, they fight over those feeders like zombies over brains. I’m certain the loss of the tail feather is the result of just such a clash, and I’ll even lay down money saying that hummingbirds purposefully try to damage each other's tail feathers when they fight so that the loser is unable to chirp his way through a Big Move. Because I bet those hummingbirds already know what it has taken me two posts to learn: Chicks dig scars and think daredevils are sexy, but a romantic song will seal the deal every time.