My pet hummingbird

I know what you’re thinking.

I know because I am semi-psychic but also because we ALL know I did this other huge hummingbird post last week, with that movie about the hummingbird and the crocosmia… But just stop shaking your head like that because today’s post is completely different. FYI I have since tamed the bird, and now she is my pet hummingbird, Francine. (Do not ask how I tamed Francine. It is a secret that we hummingbird whisperers never divulge.)

Francine is vastly changed–she responds to commands.

hummingbird flying“Come Francine!”

Francine is a Rufous Hummingbird. She eats tons of insects as well as sweet flower nectar. There is actually a lot of speculation about hummingbird diets, which can sometimes include tree sap, and ripe fruit. (One day I made her a fruit salad for supper, but it was tiny–she only weighs about as much as a small coin.)

In winter Francine must pack her bags and fly south to Mexico, or at least to Florida, where she can sit in the sun and possibly enjoy very good salsa in local restaurants. (I kind of think she made up that restaurant part.)  Still it’s a long trip for a little (three-inch) bird who flies about 34 mph (54 km/h)–although that speed looks like a rocket when she’s flying around in my garden with her wings moving 70-80 times every second. (There is a very distinctive “hum” or whirring sound from all that wing motion; when I hear that sound I know to look for her.)

hummingbird & crocosmia“Sip, Francine!”

Isn’t that cute how her tail does a kind of right angle sometimes?

Hummingbirds are attracted to red and orange, which pretty much explains the crocosmia link. Also maybe the salsa…

In the early spring Francine will come back from the south and nest again and lay two tiny white eggs, often high in an evergreen tree. (A typical hummingbird lifespan is only three to five years, but I expect Francine to live much longer than that.)

Here’s a trick she loves….

hummingbird trick“Where’s Francine?”

It’s a kind of peekaboo game and it always makes her laugh, plus it lets you see the irridescent green color of her back.

hovering hummingbird“Francine, hover!”

There now you can see her pretty front colors. The boy birds in her life look different, with lots of reddish feathers on their heads.

Hummingbirds are the only birds which can truly hover and also fly backwards and upside down. They can do this because their wings rotate at the shoulder. (It takes a kind of figure-eight motion to hover– you might try it…)

rufous hummingbird hovers“Stay by the flower Francine! Good bird.”

Francine is known, among hummingbirds, as a remarkable beauty.

In spite of that she is very responsible and disciplined. She has a tiny nest (about an inch and a half wide), somewhere so secret that I don’t even know where it’s hidden although I think I know the oak tree. It’s likely made of spider silk and thistle down and moss and cozy things like that and was built entirely by Francine after that boy bird left for who knows where.  Anyway she can’t stay and visit too long because of the two little half-inch eggs, or maybe the two tiny chicks.

hummingbird and fuchsia“Fuchsia time Francine!”

Most of these pictures of Francine can be enlarged. Click on them once, and then again to make them bigger. She said to tell you hello, and, if you live between Oregon and Mexico, to ask that you maybe put out a winter hummingbird feeder so she can stop for lunch on her way south.


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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32 Responses to My pet hummingbird

  1. David says:

    I’ve had a rufous hummingbird in my garden during the winter here in Houston. I’ll be sure and put out my feeders again this year. If you sit quietly next to a hummingbird feeder, she might come right up to you. I had this happen in Colorado and it was very fun. If you leave the feeder in the same place and move your chair up each day, she will get used to the idea very quickly and figure out that you are no threat. Tell Francine I’ll have the feeder ready by November. David/:0)

    • linniew says:

      I can well believe you might get close to a hummingbird in the way you describe David– they don’t seem to be terribly shy. I love watching them among the flowers, and I intend to seek out more of the right plants for their dining enjoyment. I’ll certainly let Francine know about your feeder in Houston. She may drop by for Thanksgiving.

  2. kininvie says:

    Wow – at last! I knew all along a hummingbird post wasn’t really beyond your capability. I wish I could find a hedgehog for you, but I haven’t seen or heard one all year (except of course for roadkill, and I don’t epect you would appreciate pictures of a squashed one, even if I propped it up artistically…)

    • Tim says:

      Where have all the hedgehogs gone, Kininvie? I haven’t seen one either all summer, not even a squashed one!!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Kininvie
      First, thank you for not sending me a photo of a propped-up dead hedgehog. On the other hand, where are the live ones, and why are they fewer in number? Thank you for inspiring me to photograph Francine. She is quite interesting and fun but I will tell you confidentially that she is terrible about returning borrowed books.

  3. Tim says:

    Amazing pictures … thank you. Your hummingbirds are much prettier than my bats, and probably easier to photograph. You will miss her when she decides to leave.

    • linniew says:

      That was a funny comment Tim because we too have bats and just the other night I was silly and tried to photograph them against the early evening sky. They were tiny black specks in the images. But I expect you and I both appreciate them eating all those insects.

  4. Nell Jean says:

    Precious post.

  5. Katie says:

    Great shots! It’s not easy to get a humming bird photo that’s not just a blur. Humming birds remind me of Chihuahuas. They have no idea how small they are and will come stare you down for trespassing in their garden.

  6. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Humming bird whisperer – one more in your endless list of talents! Impressive how quickly you’ve built this relationship with Francine!

  7. I’m sure as the hummingbird whisperer you’re already aware of this but Francine comes from a very large and prominent family. Her twice-removed cousins live in my backyard and aren’t nearly so orderly and mannerly as Francine. In fact you could say they make up the dysfunctional side of the family with their domestic squabbles, habitually eschewing boundaries and dive-bombing each other in an effort to reestablish their place on the fuchsia bush. It’s actually quite entertaining until they buzz past my head and put me in cardiac arrest.

    I can’t imagine what would happen if I had Crocosmia in my garden and perhaps this oversight is why I’m alive today.

    • linniew says:

      As a matter of fact Francine DID mention those cousins– they are famous for the sort of uncontrolled hummingbird behavior you describe Gracie. Thank heaven you don’t grow crocosmia! On the other hand, I just saw that coveted fuchsia in your garden post and I will be shopping for more of those for next year, because one hummingbird is not enough, although it sounds as though there is a limit. (You might need to wear a hard-hat in the garden, just in case.)

  8. Lyn says:

    I don’t wish to cast doubt on your veracity, Linnie, but are you perhaps exaggerating just a teeny bit about your pet hummingbird? I only ask because my pet kookaburra says that hummingbirds can’t laugh. Of course, his standards are pretty high.

    • linniew says:

      Oh I’ve heard that song Lyn! But just now I watched a YouTube piece of a kookaburra “singing” and I must say the sound made the terrier go nuts. So yes your pet bird has a robust laugh. The hummer is more like a tiny hee-hee-hee. Really tiny. You could miss it…

  9. Ya know, if you get a bunch of pots you can add even more Francine friendly plants to the garden. I’m just sayin…. Her cousin lives at my house and fiercely guards the entire garden from every other hummer who dares enter her territory. if she were human sized, she’d be a kick boxing badass.

  10. bridget says:

    Francine is very sensible to go South for the Winter. Love the Fuschia…we have the same one.

  11. She probably would also like a hummingbird swing. No, seriously. Apparently they like to swing on, well, hummingbird swings.
    Got mine at Pop’s Hummingbird Swings.
    Even if the hummingbirds never swing on them, you can tell people that’s what the little swing is.

    • linniew says:

      I thought you were making up that whole swing idea because, well sometimes people around here make things up. Then I went to Pop’s Hummingbird Swings website and there the little swings are. It gave me hope for the world as I perceive it to be… Anyway I can’t help but think access to such a swing might lead a hummingbird to a lucrative career in a circus, and also to gratitude for the gardener who got her there. Kickbacks maybe. So Francine and I thank you for the tip Bob.

      PS: I just visited your blog (The Miserable Gardener) to sort of help me know who is this person (who can resist) and I loved your writing, and also the part your dog writes, and then too the weeds part, and you taught me a new word (frisson) and that is just so important to me.

  12. b-a-g says:

    Francine should release an aerobics video. That hovvering trick looks like it uses up a lot of calories.

  13. kininvie says:

    Hi Linnie, I’ve found two hedgehogs for you – taken in a neighbour’s garden rather than mine a couple of years back. Better than nothing:

    • linniew says:

      Why Kininvie, I am so surprised! Like a bouquet of sunflowers from France almost.
      I will try to add here the photo of the one that is not lying down:
      Kininvie's hedgehog
      [Well I see that didn’t work. Hmm…]

      That lying down one was okay right? It looked kind of like it was on a road…

      But they are so adorable! Kininvie I don’t see how you can go without them in your garden. Could you buy babies or something? Or trade some blue poppies maybe? Anyway I just appreciate the photos so much and as a reward I will not suggest any hedgehog names. Although I think I would be inclined toward name like Bristle

      • kininvie says:

        Thing is, Linnie, hedgehogs are nocturnal, so it’s rare to catch them out in daylight. And also, it’s not lying down, it just has short legs. Most hedgehogs are called Spike – which is more appropriate than Bristle, as you realise if you try to pick one up.

        Don’t think you can embed pix on WordPress comments, no matter how hard you try. You’ll have to give my hedgehogs a blog past of their own. In fact you could have a worldwide desirable garden fauna post, with hedgehogs and hummingbirds, and maybe a wallaby or something from Lyn (are wallabies desirable?) If you can’t upload from p’bucket, I’ll e-mail them

        • linniew says:

          Short legs? I just revisited the photo of that hedgehog Kininvie and his chin is on the ground. Really I fear he was hit by a truck but I am not argumentative so I will pretend along with you that it’s just a hedgehog with almost no legs.

          Thank you so much for the blog post idea where I feature roadkill hedgehogs and possibly wallabies (which neither you nor I have any ideas about) but I’m afraid if I write about creatures or anyway hummingbirds one more time my couple of last remaining subscribers will throw in the towel. So maybe not.

          But I would like to be able to add photos to comments. I think a blog moderator (like you on your blog or me on mine) is supposed to be able to do that. I think I even did it in the past…

  14. sharon says:

    another secret is that she could be Francois..I hope she comes back and your lovely relationship lasts for a long time

    • linniew says:

      Hi Sharon
      Nope. I have a book of Willamette Valley birds, and the boy Rufous Hummingbird has lots of copper red on him. This is definitely Francine. I saw her this morning on the fuchsia blooms and she said to tell you hello!

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