Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother of a Different Breed

A couple days ago, I naively snapped these photos of the first visitor to my hummingbird feeder this year.  Thanks to and  Audubon Arkansas, I'm now much more informed about who she is.
It appears that, like me, she is a mother. 
How do I know?  Unlike me, she's not given away by her trailing 3-year-old.  Here's the info I've gleaned that makes me think she's a Momma bird. . .

1.  She is a she, not a he. Her markings (and location, here in Arkansas) give her away as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird -- only, she has no ruby throat.  That's because the males are the ones who use their dashingly handsome red necks to make the women swoon.

2.  She is very small.  I've had this feeder hanging right outside my kitchen window for a few years, and she may be my smallest visitor to date.  Her size may lead one to believe she's a juvenile, but it's actually the mothers who are smaller than their chicks.  Why is that, you ask? Hummingbirds lay their two white, pea-sized eggs in their walnut-shell-sized nests each spring.  For the 14 days or so that they are nesting, the mothers rarely leave the nest and dwindle in size as they vigilantly warm their tiny eggs. 

3.  This hummingbird is eating like a horse.  Okay, maybe not like a horse, but she kept returning to the feeder so much that I thought I would have to refill it in just a matter of days.  For the first 10 days of a her chicks' lives, the mother hummingbird leaves the nest solely for the purpose of finding nectar to feed her young.  By the time, her young have left her an empty-nester (which they do at the end of the 10 days), she is about half the size she was before laying the eggs.  Talk about motherhood taking a toll!

So, my best guess is that either she is currently feeding her young, way up in the nest I keep watching her return to, or they've recently left the nest, and she is eating so ravenously to regain her own strenth.

  Either way, it seems like a great picture of motherhood, putting the needs of our young before our own.

  Happy Mother's Day to the many moms out there (including mine) who show love by doing just that on a daily basis!

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