The World of the Hummingbird

Overview

"Feathered jewels," "rainbows on wings," "rays of the sun"— these are but a few of the admiring descriptions hummingbirds have inspired in observers through the ages. In this engaging new book, award-winning writer and poet Harry Thurston adds his own unique voice to the chorus in praise of these tiny, colorful birds.

The author has spent many hours watching the antics of hummers that visit the feeders around his Nova Scotia home. The result is this affectionate and information-packed portrait. Skillfully ...
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Overview

"Feathered jewels," "rainbows on wings," "rays of the sun"— these are but a few of the admiring descriptions hummingbirds have inspired in observers through the ages. In this engaging new book, award-winning writer and poet Harry Thurston adds his own unique voice to the chorus in praise of these tiny, colorful birds.

The author has spent many hours watching the antics of hummers that visit the feeders around his Nova Scotia home. The result is this affectionate and information-packed portrait. Skillfully interweaving his own observations with those of distinguished ornithologists, naturalists, and fellow hummingbird enthusiasts, Thurston offers reader a close-up view of the birds' physiology, as well as their habits and behaviors. The hummingbird's jewel-like color and constant hovering flight elicit wonder and delight, and a deeper examination of its behaviors—fastidious nector—sipping among flowers, elaborate courtship rituals, the building of nests delicately bound with cobwebs, even self-regulation of body temperature to conserve energy—only enhance our appreciation of this hardy little creature. It is small wonder that people in the Americas, from as early as the time of the Aztecs, have been drawn to the hummingbird as a religious symbol, as well as a source of simple delight. Perhaps, says the author, it is "our cumulative individual desire to have these beautiful birds as part of our environment" that has made them one of the success stories in our attempts to preserve wildlife.

Thurston's obvious delight in hummingbirds comes through on every page of this lively, fascinating account. Accompanying the text is a collection of stunningphotographs that catch the birds in mid-flight, probing flowers with their slender bills, or feeding minuscule offspring in their nest. Together, text and photos offer a unique and fascinating look at these "feathered jewels in flight."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578050437
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 9.85 (w) x 9.82 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

To have hummingbirds buzzing about my backyard is a wish that I share with the millions of other North Americans who, like me, station feeders or plant hummingbird gardens to attract them. My life is brightened by the flashy appearance of these feathered jewels, out of all proportion to their size.
There is a freshness to every encounter with a hummingbird, as if it had a unique power to appeal to childlike perception. The special qualities of this group seem to revive and sustain our fascination with, and faith in, the creative powers of Nature.
The significance of hummingbirds to New World peoples has persisted in Mexican folklore, which often depicts hummingbirds holding up the baby Jesus' diapers. This iconography arose, it is thought, when the Spanish, in an effort to convert Native Americans to Christianity, adopted the return of the hummingbirds as a symbol of the Resurrection.
Hummingbirds also make a profound impression on the European mind. Perhaps none of the early naturalists expressed the wonder at this new found family of birds more cogently than John Lawson, who, in 1709, wrote in A New Voyage to Carolina:"The humming-bird is the miracle of all our winged animals."
The hummingbird chattering at my study window, imploring me to hang my feeder promptly, I'm sure, is the same individual who buzzed about my deck, supping from my feeder last summer. When I go out to investigate, he reappears, stalling only a foot in front of my face. He shuttles back and forth, chattering loudly, before making a beeline to the empty space where the feeder should be hung. He hovers there, as if making an accusatory pause in our visualcommunication. The message is clear, as is the demonstration that this hummingbird possess a memory of where the feeder was as my role in replenishing it.
Such a relationship with a wild creature is rare. When the creature is as colorful and dynamic as a hummingbird, the sense of privilege and responsibility is deeply felt.
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