Bubba meets Birdzilla and the Cinnamon Hummingbird

Unlike the title might imply this isn't an article about a clash of titans. www.Birdzilla.com is a new and wonderful discovery of Bubba's. A monster web site for birders that obviously want to promote the sport of birdwatching and is providing free information services for birders. It has a place for searches, sightings, announcements, discoveries and more.

    What won my affection was its accounts of backyard birdwatching, not barstool, I said "backyard". I learned birdwatching from my mother while washing dishes and looking out her kitchen window. She would say, "Look! a cardinal" or "a spring robin", even a sparrow got attention.

    It became contagious; however, I washed a lot of dishes before I discovered her joy. Forty years later I find myself a birdwatching tour guide taking birders up jungle rivers to show them birds they will not see in their backyard. A little point of irony is that some of my best sightings are still out the window washing my dishes.

    Yesterday, in my boxers with soapy hands and no binoculars, I got a close look at a rarity, a perching Cinnamon Hummingbird in the coconut tree only a few feet away. It seems to use my hibiscus as a territory, returning to its supervisory perch outside my window to wait for intruders.

    Birdzilla puts them in order of Apodiformes; there are two families, the swifts and hummingbirds. The hummingbird's family name is Trochilidea, and it has 365 or more members. Depending on whose book you're reading, the figure goes from 330 to 365. I suspected some of my books were just old and more species have been discovered since 1937. My 1979 edition of Reader's Digest Birds seem to be the most complete, and agrees with Birdzilla, 365.

    Through Birdzilla links I found that hummingbirds are in general the smallest and fastest birds on the planet. The largest being the Giant Patagona gigas at eight inches, and smallest the Bumble Bee Hummingbird of Cuba at 2.5 centimeters (about the size of a bumble bee).

    It's true that hummingbirds are attracted by red nectar flowers and get a lot of their tremendous energy from its sweet, sugary  juice, but their diet's protein comes from eating insects.

    My cabaña is circled with red blossomed hibiscus but it's still just luck that I'm getting this rare, close look at a Cinnamon perching. I've avoided writing about hummingbirds because it's so difficult to identify one. They almost never quit moving long enough to see and are so fast, all you see is a blur. Trying to identify it while it's hovering is your best hope; I saw a long slender orange to red bill, with a black tip. Most of its body was an iridescent green, its entire body seemed only about three inches long, and its throat and under-parts were, of course, cinnamon. Its eyes were black. This was the first time I had seen hummingbird wings not moving. They looked surprisingly normal for things that can move that fast. I guess I expected to see wings like an insect, but they were feathered and had a gray color. The feet were too small for me to even describe. Those flying around the hibiscus seem to fight. The fight always seems to be the same; one will be hovering and darting from flower to flower. My guy charges at it and chases it off into the distance. Afterwards, it returns to its perch outside the kitchen window where it waits for the next intruder.

    Several weeks ago I was chopping coconut fronds with my machete from a bushy tree close to the back of my house, when I saw on the underside of a frond I was about to cut, an intricately woven nest firmly attached. Not knowing what kind of bird could make such a sturdy hanging nest and because it was so unique, I went straight away to the book shelf in the house. It looked like a hanging basket, but glued, as it was woven to the palm. I read they usually lay two leathery, buff eggs and Birdzilla.com said hummingbirds steal spider web and use it for the bonding material.

    I'm sure Ambergris has more than one kind of hummingbird, but they're so damn hard to identify while moving. The Cinnamon outside my window seems to be a lucky find but even greater is Birdzilla.

Birds of Ambergris Caye

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