Hummingbirds: Magnificent Flyers



This summer I have been trying to photograph more than just wild flowers. I love wild flowers, but there are other great subjects–such as birds. What could be better than hummingbirds. It is very difficult to photograph them because they are usually on the fly. They are magnificent flyers. As a photographer I sometimes wish they were not so magnificent

A few years ago I watched a PBS show called Magic in the Air, about those amazing hummingbirds. These are astounding birds, truly “the most remarkable things on 2 wings,” as the show said. They are “intriguing, enchanting and utterly captivating.”

Hummingbirds are so fast that they rarely provide more than a fleeting glimpse to the observer. That is a pity because there is much to see. Because they are so fast I was surprised to see that I captured this hummingbird in flight.

There are 350 or so species of hummingbird, but all of them are found in the western hemisphere. In the west they are found in “dazzling diversity.” The hummingbird is the smallest of all warm-blooded creatures.

The television show displayed some stunning slow motion photography, for it is only then that one can really learn to appreciate these amazing flying machines. Even if the bird finds a flower that is blowing in the wind, the bird is able to “stand still” in the air beside the flower. No other bird can hover as well as that. When they are balanced in the air they look like they are floating in the air.

Professor Doug Aufschuler, interviewed on the show called them “some of the most elite athletes of the animal world.” That is surely no exaggeration. They can fly, not just backwards, but in a figure 8 pattern. Besides flying backwards they can briefly fly upside down.

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