Does A 2 Year Old Need A Plane Ticket American The Sounds of Hummingbirds

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The Sounds of Hummingbirds

Believe it or not, hummingbirds do have songs– well, sort of. They do not have a large enough voice box to create vocalizations like other birds. But they still communicate very effectively. My Ruby-throated hummingbirds use squeaks, chirps, ‘chitters’ and rattles in a variety of ways.

Research now confirms the unthinkable. My returning hummingbirds have flown non-stop, over over 600 miles of water in the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of finding nectar sources when they finally reach land! And if that’s not enough, they continue their migration north to end up in my backyard, and point as far north as Canada. This is why I appreciate so much the stamina and sheer strength of this little flying jewel.

When my hummingbirds first arrive in May and find full nectar in the same place as last year, they actually fly very close to my face at eye level and hover for 3 or 4 seconds. They quickly move off to the feeder and take a long drink, then a few short sips before flying off to another part of the yard. All the while they emit a kind of bubbly chattering chirp that is slightly different from their other sounds. It’s such a happy little sound that I can’t help but feel their joy at finally making it back safely ‘home’.

Spot another diner at what they perceive to be their personal nectar-eater, they quickly approach with a high-pitched series of squeaks. I have seen both females and males indulge in this behavior. Presumably these sounds serve as a warning to the intruder as well as any other hummingbirds close enough to hear them.

After successfully driving off the usurper, they fly off to land on a nearby branch awaiting the next territorial invader. In flight they utter chirping sounds in sets of 2 or 3 separate segments, which are sometimes repeated for emphasis; as if saying, ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it’!

Now when it comes time for the male to court the female, he performs a magical pendulum dance in the air that is fascinating to witness. The female sits motionless and seemingly mesmerized while the male flies in a “u” shaped arc. An “otherworldly” rumbling sound like those made in the old sci-fi alien spaceship movies can be easily heard if you listen for it. Rather than a vocal sound, this hum is made by the movement of air passing over the hummer’s tail feathers as it performs its amazing aerial ballet.

I learned to listen and watch for this amazing maneuver a few weeks after the females arrived. You see the males usually come back about a week before their potential mates. For the survival of the species, male hummingbirds court another female as soon as their “mates” lay their eggs. They do not participate in feeding or rearing the young.

Have you ever seen hummingbirds ‘sword fight’ as they ascend vertically? I watched as males and females both engaged in this curious non-lethal battle. They use their long beaks for more than just drinking nectar and plucking spiders from webs. As they climb higher and higher, their beaks cross back and forth just like dueling swordsmen!

These small powerhouses are indeed combative characters. During these dogfights, you can hear a quieter series of chirps uttered at the top of the flight. Each then rushes away: one back towards its territory and the feeder, and the other disappears into the distance. These conflicts happen quite often in the warmer days of summer.

Sitting on the clothesline in the pouring rain, hummers often spread their tails and shake them. They do the same for their wings and head. You can tell they are really enjoying the warm water cascading over their feathers as they make their constant rain “squit” sounds. I think that’s the equivalent of singing in the shower for them!

You can tell I appreciate and enjoy my hummingbirds and all their sounds. I look forward to their arrival every year, and plan my outdoor activities to make sure I’m around to greet them when they get here. Like old friends who have been separated for a long time, we are very happy to see each other again!

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