By Jane Brooks Hine
One 27th of May my son discovered a Hummingbird at work upon her nest, and drew for me a map of the locality by which I had no difficulty in finding the spot. It was well in the depths of an eighty acre forest. I watched my opportunity and while the bird was away for material succeeded in obtaining a desirable seat for observation. The saddle was already formed and the nest evened up to a platform level with the upper surface of the limb. It was placed beyond the middle of the long, slender maple branch about fifteen feet above the ground. The bird always followed the same direction whenever she went for material. Oftener than otherwise she returned laden to her nest in thirty-nine seconds after she left it –now and then more; once ninety seconds. I also spent much time there the 28th and 29th, and find the history of those days very similar to that of the 27th. Occasionally she took a vacation for food and rest; but those vacations were short. On May 30, at two P.M., the cup was complete and the bird was carrying silk and lining it. For this material she would be gone about as long again as for that of the outside. The next day, May 31, she was sitting. During incubation she sat lightly on her nest a few minutes, then off as many, and looked brightly about her while on her eggs.
On June 8 I found my bird in trouble; another female Hummingbird was trespassing. The aggressor would hover over the nest, swoop back and forth above it like a pendulum, alight with a tantalizing gesture on a twig close beside it, or with a squeal, dart under it, and each time she came near would get driven away by the sitting bird. Twice I saw her rob the nest, once of lichens from the outside and once a good bill-full of silk from the lining. The poor mother came back to her eggs as often as she was disturbed. After watching the constant conflict for more than two hours, I left them still battling. The next day the nest was unoccupied. During all these thirteen days –I had spent much time in close observation—I did not once see a male Hummingbird in the vicinity of the nest. It was the female who did all the labor of nest-making and of incubation and who as long as she could, valiantly defended her eggs and property. In my chosen seat I was not more than twenty feet from the nest and entirely unhidden; yet the bird paid no more attention to me than she might had I been a part of t he tree I very quietly leaned against.
I once saw a female Hummingbird gather lichens from the body of a beech tree. She held herself poised before it, darting upon it again and again, until she was in her bill all she wished to carry.
About nine o’clock one spring morning, when lilacs were in bloom, we discovered that the old lilac bush by the well was ‘swarming’ with Hummingbirds –just come; we knew they were not there a few minutes before. There are five large lilacs on our premises and those of a near neighbor. On investigation I found four of these bushes alive, as it were, with Hummers—all females. The fifth bush, a Persian, they did not favor. The Persian lilac, with its slender, lithe branches and great, drooping cluster, is very beautiful when in bloom, but its flowers lack the sweetness of the common species. Then, all the time, there were birds in the air constantly coming and going from bush to bush. They remained the greater part of the day. I spent much time standing within on of those bushes. The birds seemed not in the least disturbed by my presence. There were seldom less than ten and often fifteen of them about the particular bush I was occupying. Every now and then one would alight and sometimes would pass her long tongue back and forth through her bill to free it from pollen. In the afternoon a male Hummingbird occasionally came to the flowers but was invariable driven away by the females. Towards evening the flock, apparently undiminished in numbers, disappeared as abruptly as it had appeared in the morning. On the following day the Persian lilac was still in its native purple, but the beauty was gone from the other four bushes; the flowers were a dull copperas color.
Once again I fell in with a wave of migrating Hummingbirds. These were in the eighty-acre forest and this time all males. These were not in a close flock as before, but were very plentifully spiced throughout the forest.
In a neighbor’s orchard a Hummingbird sucked juice from an apple while a young girl was in the act of paring it.
Once, on one of my rambles, I stopped to talk with a friend in her garden. A stalk of double velvet marigold, broken over the day before, drooped upon the ground. I suppose decay had set in, yet, as the flowers were still tolerably bright, I carried them with me when I resumed by walk. While pausing at a cornfield a Hummingbird, leaving the corn blossoms, came and leisurely fed from the marigolds in my hand, inserting its bill between the outer petals of the flowers.
I (and others also, no doubt) have found it a very common thing for Hummingbirds to be hovering and apparently feeding in the vicinity of dead branches—branches checking in the summer sun. Are they not feeding upon something attracted by decaying limbs,--insects invisible to our eyes? ---Jane L. Hine, Sedan, Ind.
Source: Auk, v. 11, no. 3, July-September 1894, p. 253-254
Notes and News
Mrs. Jane Louisa Hine, an Associate of the American Ornithologists’ Union, died in Sedan, Indiana, February 11, 1916, in her eighty-fifth year. She was the daughter of Lonson Brooks, and was born in Erie County, Ohio, April 2, 1831. After attending public schools in her native county she finished her education at Oberlin College. Early in life she became interested in birds and continued to study them as long as she lived. She wrote much on birds for ‘The Farmer’s Guide,’ Huntington, Ind., and many of her notes are published in Butler’s ‘The Birds of Indiana.’ Her ‘Observations on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’ is printed in ‘The Auk’ (1894, pp. 253-254). – J.H.S.
Source: Auk, v. 34, 1917, p. 117