|Female rufous sided humming bird|
Imagine a world without hummingbirds. Many of us take them for granted, although whenever we see one it is a marvel in our eyes. We have four species in our area, with the rufous sided hummers being the most common. Anna’s hummingbirds are also very common and have the distinction of being the only ones that spend the whole year in the southwestern BC. My neighbour keeps a feeder out during the winter and I frequently see one perching on a nearby tree. The other ones, much less frequent, are the black chinned and the calliope.
We have just spent a month in New Zealand. They have no hummingbirds there. Zero; zilch, none. They have other birds that fill similar niches, with the Tui being very fond of nectar and being an avian pollinator to boot. But very few people there have experienced the joy of watching a hummingbird flit effortlessly from flower to flower, navigating the air with all the skill of a veteran helicopter pilot. It is kind of sad, in a way.
Of course, they have their own special birds which are no less amazing in their own special way. These include unique creatures such as the fantails, whose antics and constant flittings must on some level equal the energy output of our hummers. I have already mentioned the tuis, but let’s not forget the namesake kiwis. Now there is a remarkable bird.
The egg of a kiwi is huge, emu sized, yet the adult is a little smaller than a chicken itself. Think of a chicken laying a two pound egg. It probably weighs more than that, but I don’t want to go overboard on my comparison. These flightless birds are endangered because they can’t get out of harms way and the number of predators is increasing. Fortunately there are a lot of management practices in place which seem to be facilitating a comeback.
I do not suppose we should feel too sorry for New Zealanders who have never seen a humming bird, as there are many of us who have never experienced a fantail, tui, or kiwi. We each have our own species to be grateful for; to be admired and appreciated. But just like those environmentally sensitive kiwis, we had better do a good job looking after them, because they could disappear and we might be the ones not to see them in the future.