Thursday, April 2, 2009


I was sure there were no hummingbirds here. Eric said, yes, there are hummingbirds.

I still thought no. We hung up a feeder, just to see. No hummingbirds. Never saw them. Kept looking at the feeder every once in a while. Still full. Still full.

I went out to empty it about a month ago. Thought, That sugar water's going to grow mold. Grow toxic bacteria, and if a hummingbird happens to take a sip, he's going to fall right out of the air, stone dead on the bricks. Stuck point first into a crack, quivering like an arrow.

They have tiny little livers, hummingbirds. That's why you're not supposed to use that red-dyed hummingbird food. It kills them, just like the bacteria in the feeder. So you think you're being nice to them, but instead they're piling up in a heap over there behind the bushes.

Anyway, I went to empty the feeder, and it turns out it wasn't full of clear sugar water, it was full of clear air. The hummingbirds had guzzled it all in secret, when we weren't looking. So it's full again, and I see them all the time. Little fat things. They hover back a few inches, looking around for cats or something, then zip in to swallow about quart of sugar water in ten seconts, then zip back out again to check for cats.

Any cats? Nope. Zip! Glug-glug-glug. Zip! How about now? Any cats?

Any other hummingbirds? That's what they're really after. They fight like demons, zipping around, fierce. But tiny. You laugh, and it's all funny till one of them pokes you right in the eye. Hummingbirds are sharp. Fast. Dangerous. Poison-tipped, especially after they've been drinking out of a feeder full of toxic bacteria.

You wonder what note they make with those wings. Is it like the fluorescent lights, 60 cycles of out-of-tune B-flat? Could you train them to hum in chords? The bass hummingbird would keep falling down because its wings weren't beating fast enough. Once again to be stuck beak-first into the ground, and you'd have to pull it out.

You also wonder, Do they ever drink so much that they can't fly? Like those puffins up in Alaska that eat so much fish they can't take off. I saw them, with their little round bellies bouncing off the water. You figure most of them would get eaten by seals and orcas. A bonus, because they're already stuffed.

So then I learned this—it's amazing the things you learn. Vampire bats get a jet-assisted takeoff by peeing. It's because they suck so much blood out of a cow that they can't take off. It's a lot for the bat, not so much for the cow. They only way they can lighten up enough to take off is to pee. You don't want to be standing in the takeoff path.

Look at that—I start off with hummingbirds and end up with peeing vampire bats. That's the way of all this writing, right into the gutter, with all the bat pee and discarded hummingbird beaks.

See, you can eat them roasted, the little hummingbirds, if you really want to. Hold them by their beaks like hors d'oeuvres on toothpicks. Not much meat on a hummingbird, though. Just a mouthful of little gleaming green feathers.

Not like a puffin, but I imagine those are mostly beaks and oil. Seals eat them, but seals eat all kinds of things you wouldn't touch.

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