Letter: Hummingbirds bring brilliant flashes of color to the yard

Posted 5/19/21

To the editor:

Well, it’s not exactly the May we had hoped for, being a little too cool and gray for my taste, but at least we didn’t have two heavy frosts as we did in 1999. Despite …

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Letter: Hummingbirds bring brilliant flashes of color to the yard

Posted

To the editor:

Well, it’s not exactly the May we had hoped for, being a little too cool and gray for my taste, but at least we didn’t have two heavy frosts as we did in 1999. Despite the cool, shrubs have been  blooming everywhere and birds have been building nests. A pair of bluebirds even had their babies fledge early and a photo was sent to me, maybe two minutes after one had taken a first look at his new world. It is probably best that we forget once summer comes how magical May can be with some surprise every day. 

If you think a male ruby-throated Hummingbird (our Eastern variety) has red throat feathers you would be mistaken. His neck feathers are covered with platelets which have no color but which catch the sun and glow red while he dances wildly to attract a mate. These neck feathers are also called “Gorgettes” after the protective throat covering that knights wore for protection. 

If you are still interested, read on and look up birdnote.com and in the upper right corner write in ruby-throated hummingbird and keep scrolling down until you come to #9 and there is a splendid photo. What I want you to look at particularly are the little untidy clumps of feathers on either side of the main neck feathers and this is why. One evening around 6 the sun had gone around the corner of the house and  I saw a male perched on the nectar holder. He just sat there – guarding the food supply – and on either side of his dark neck there were two little fires. 

I was really puzzled as to what I was seeing. From time to time he would hop up and face in the other direction, always with those little fires glowing. I don’t imagine I will ever see them again in just that lucky piece of light. (Thanks to my bird Guru for giving me the information that showed me I hadn’t been going crazy).

Grackles with their ominous yellow eyes glowing against their shiny black heads have now found the big feeder as have the starlings. The latter have pink legs which I saw glowing in the early eastern sun as they hung upside down on the suet. (In my old tattered Peterson they are called European. If they were a plant they would be called “introduced” rather than “invasive,” which of course they are.)

Well, that’s probably more than you want to read. Next time I write it will be close to the longest day of the year so grasp these days as close as you can.   

Sidney Tynan

Little Compton

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