View all of the titles in the
by Stan Tekiela
September 11, 2017
I'm often asked what is my favorite bird. This is much like asking a parent to choose which is their favorite child. I often answer this question by stating that whatever bird or animal I am studying or photographing at the time is my favorite. The truth is, they are all my favorite. I've yet to meet a bird or animal that I didn't find fascinating and super cool.
However if push comes to shove, and I had to choose a favorite bird, I would single out a group of birds, not a single bird, the hummingbirds. They are an amazing group of birds that are unlike all other birds. There are more than 320 species of hummingbird. This is the second largest family of birds in the world. It is huge. What is even more interesting is, hummingbirds are only found in the New World (the America's). They don't have hummingbirds in Europe, Africa, Asia or any other place in the world except for the America's.
Hummingbirds are one of the most easily recognized birds. They have sparkly feathers that refract sunlight like a prism. They feed upon nectar from flowers. They are fast and agile flyers. They are the only bird that can truly hover. They can fly backwards, straight up and down and if that is not enough, they do aerial somersaults.
There are 15 species of hummingbird that occur in the western half of the U.S. and Canada. Here in the eastern half of the country we only get one species, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. It's name comes from a ruby red throat patch on the male.
So I was thrilled beyond belief when recently I was contacted about a Ruby-throated hummingbird nesting. I immediately dropped everything and went to check it out. Sure enough right next to a home, owned by the most wonderful couple who enjoy birds and nature, was a tiny hummingbird female tending her two tiny pea sized eggs.
With all hummingbird species, the female sets up her own territory separate from male. She builds her own nest and incubates the eggs all by herself. The male takes no part in caring or raising the young hummers.
The female builds a nest, constructed mostly of soft plant material such as cottonwood seed puffs and glues it all together with spider silk. She forms the cup shape with her own body. So in the end, the nest is form fit to accommodate just one bird. The problem is, the female always lays 2 eggs. Which means by the time the babies hatch and grow up the nest will need to accommodate 2 adult sized birds. This is accomplished by the fact that the nest is constructed with spider silk which allows the nest to expand as the chicks grow.
Over a month’s period of time, I visited this hummingbird nest, careful to not disturb the female in any way. Using a long lens, I could sit at a respectful distance which allowed me to capture the natural behaviors of the day to day life of the hummingbird family.
At first she spent all her time incubating. Periods of incubation lasted only 20 minutes or so before the female would zoom off to feed herself. She would be gone 5 or 10 minutes before returning to the nest to settle down to incubate again.
When the babies hatched, the impossibly tiny chicks could barely lift their heads. Their eyes are not open yet and they don't have any feathers. Yet the mother feeds them with her long bill. This is what I call the sward swallowing act.
As the babies grew the mother stopped sitting (brooding) on the babies and it wasn't long before the young were so large they could barely fit in the nest. The mother would come to visit the nest about once or twice per hour. Each time she returned, the chicks would open their beaks and wait for the sward swallowing act to begin. The mother would slide her long beak down the babies’ throat and regurgitate a mixture of nectar and partially digested insects. Right on schedule the babies grew up and practiced flapping their wings at the edge of the nest and the next day they were gone.
What an amazing experience and learning opportunity. Until next time...
Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and photograph wildlife. He can be followed on www.facebook.com and twitter.com. He can be contacted via his web page at www.naturesmart.com.
The nationally syndicated NatureSmart Column appears in over 25 cities spanning 7 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. It is a bi-weekly column circulated to over 750,000 readers.
A magnificent natural event happens each spring along a very special river in South Central Nebraska. The Platte River starts out as two smaller branches, the northern branch originating in the mountains of Wyoming and the southern branch in the mountains of Colorado. Separately, these...
Each winter I make a pilgrimage to my favorite winter wonderland, Yellowstone National Park. I look forward to being immersed in the wild and surrounded by an intact ecosystem. Everything from the tiniest critters to the largest predators inhabit the park making it one of the few places with a...
Continuing with my exploration of the wonders of Florida by taking a closer look at the Florida Manatee. Also known as the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) or the Sea Cow, the manatee was one of the original 78 species that were included on the Endangered Species list when...
American Oyster Catcher
Slowing wading through a clear tidal pool, about knee deep, in coastal Florida, I was trying to move slow enough to not disturb a gorgeous American Oystercatcher that was napping on a small sandbar in the middle of the lagoon. Oystercatchers are amazing looking shorebirds with a black hood...
When he's out in the field, Stan relies on his Vortex Razor binoculars and Vortex Razor spotting scope to help find the subjects for his award winning wildlife photography.
Now, contact Stan for your special code to get a 10% discount off, along with free shipping, when you purchase any of the Vortex line of binoculars or spotting scopes.
For thirty years, professional wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela has counted on Hunt’s Photo and Video to provide him with professional photography equipment.
From tripods to camera bodies and lenses, Hunt’s has been Stan’s place for everything that he needs. Personal service and prompt shipping means Stan can count on Hunt’s to support his professional wildlife photography career.
Professional Wildlife Photographer Stan Tekiela always uses Feeder Fresh in his seed feeders to help keep the feeders and food dry, clean and mold free.
He also uses Feeder Fresh Nectar Defender in all of his hummingbird feeders. It safely keeps nectar fresh longer.