From the inside of the building I could see him lying still as death next to the glass door he had flown into. I picked him up gently. Holding him in the palm of my hand I could hardly feel the weight of this incredibly delicate male ruby-throated hummingbird. He glowed an iridescent green. I was so excited that I actually interrupted one of the classes at the seminary I was attending to show him off. I knew the Prof. would appreciate this rare opportunity. I was not so sure my fellow students would appreciate this adult show and tell. Though he looked dead, (the bird, that is, not the Prof.) I was concerned that the little fella might only be stunned. So, after about fifteen minutes of admiring him I set him on a tissue outside the glass door where I found him and watched. Suddenly, he stood up, shook himself and flew away, albeit a little unsteadily. From that day, I have continued to have a special interest in this unique bird.
So many things about the hummingbird are special that it is really in a class by itself compared to other birds. In a special way they show the wonder of a creator who does whatever he pleases for his glory—even if it seems impossible.
There are about 330 species of hummingbird. All of them live in the western hemisphere. Only the ruby-throated lives in western Michigan. He is about three inches long and weighs two to three grams—one fifth the weight of a chickadee. He builds his nest out of plant material glued together with spider silk. He decorates it with bits of lichen. His mate, having subdued colors, is very hard to spot when she sits on two white eggs.
Captured hummingbirds have lived for seventeen years which is an amazing thing considering they have an incredibly fast metabolism. Each day they must eat at least one and one-half times their own weight in nectar, which they find in flowers. In fact, they prefer large red tubular flowers like those on the trumpet vine. It is for this reason that the hummingbird feeders that birders place in their yards are typically made to look like the bird’s favorite flowers. If they are not eating the sugar water we give them they must visit over 1,000 flowers.
In case you think you have a fast heart rate, consider the fact that the hummingbird’s heart beats at 1,260 times per minute when it is agitated! That is 21 times a second! It breaths at the rate of 250 times per minute! It has a heart that weighs 20 percent of its total weight—more than any other animal.
The flight of the hummingbird is equally amazing. It is the only bird that can fly backwards. When it is hovering over a flower its wings beat 80 times a second! I can hardly imagine that. No wonder they appear as a blur to our eyes. Their wing muscles are the most powerful for their size of any animal.
The feathers of the hummingbird are covered with air filled platelets that capture the light and split it like a prism reflecting only certain colors. That is why they sparkle in the sun with such an amazing iridescence. They are truly the jewels of the bird world.
In case you think this mini-bird is a wimp, you had better look again. Every year he migrates back and forth across the Gulf of Mexico between Central America and the Eastern United States flying thousands of miles. That’s right. The little guy I found stunned on a spring morning had just come in from wintering near the equator. He also is the most aggressive bird around. He will take on other birds and animals many times larger.
This past summer we visited friends at their summer home near the beautiful coastal city of Ludington. We watched the hummingbirds fight over a feeder. Their movements were so quick as they buzzed each other that we could only see them clearly when they hovered. They put on an amazing display.
I am convinced that the Lord created the tiny hummingbird to show us that His creative power has no limits. About the time we think that He has given every possible variation of color, size and ability in the bird world, He shows us this sparkling jewel in the crown of His creativity. So tiny, so quick, so maneuverable, so colorful that human words fall short of the reality. Human engineers and scientists are studying him in an attempt to understand and emulate his abilities.
If our heavenly Father can create and care for this little flying wonder, how much more will He nurture the physical bodies and care for the physical and spiritual needs of His loving children. He has loved them so much that He sent His Son to die for their sins, breathes new life into them, and prepares them for their place in heaven.
Glory to His name!
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6: 25, 26).
Flashing in the sun,
Like he’s number one,
The closer he flew,
The bigger he grew.
’Twas himself he saw.
He gave it his all.
Attacked with his might,
Worked up for a fight.
’Twas himself he hit.
His head he did split.
Dropped like a stone,
Out cold he lay prone.
Revealing God grand,
He lay in my hand.
With feathers that shown,
Out classing my own.
With a shake he flew,
His bump he did rue.
He beat his rival.
And made us marvel.