The Spirit of a Fallen Warrior: The Wonders of Hummingbirds

August 19, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Did you know, the Aztec god of war “Huitzilopochtli” is often depicted as a hummingbird? It was believed that fallen warriors would return to earth as hummingbirds and butterflies.



There’s nothing like hummingbirds. In my area they’re very active right now. The nesting season is over. The young that survived are busy trying to secure their own food sources, and the adults are doing the same to build up fat and reserves for their long migration this fall. Because of their size (typically 3-5 inches in length), their constant movement (most flap their wings about 50 times a second), and speed (they can fly about 27 mph) photographing hummingbirds is a challenge. If you want to freeze the motion of their wings and body in an image, a LOT of very bright and direct natural light or artificial light (flash) is a must. Photographs have to be taken at very high speed. Most hummingbirds don’t tolerate people close to them, and ethical photographers don’t trap or bait hummingbirds for photo ops, and this includes using flash traps. If you want to capture the fine detail of a hummingbird, your best bet is a large telephoto lens that let’s you get some distance away. The photos shared in this blog were taken in a mix of clouds/sun, partial shade, and very bright early morning light anywhere from 15-40 feet away using my 560mm Canon lens configuration (400 mm lens w/1.4 extender) with no tripod. All were processed in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for exposure adjustments and cropping.


More incredible hummingbird facts:

  • Hummingbirds are capable of acrobatic flight, but can’t walk or hop. Their feet have evolved to grip and perch, and are incredibly light so they can fly easily.


  • They are marathon fliers.  Most North American hummingbirds migrate south to winter in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, or Central America. A ruby-throated hummingbird flies at about 27 miles per hour if there’s no tail wind or head wind.  This means that for those making the long 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico during migration it would take about 18 1/2 hours.


  • To conserve energy when food is scarce, and nightly when not foraging, they can go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation.


  • The majority of hummingbird activity consists of sitting or perching. Hummingbirds spend an average of 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% perching and digesting.


  • Because their high metabolism makes them vulnerable to starvation, hummingbirds get highly adapted to good food sources. Many North American hummingbird species are territorial and will guard food sources (such as a feeder) against other hummingbirds.


  • The ruby-throated hummingbird – one of the most common species in the United States – averages 3 grams. For comparison, a nickel weighs about 5 grams.


  • Many hummingbirds die during their first year of life. But if they survive, they can live a decade or more. Most hummingbirds live three to five years.


  • Trinidad and Tobago, known as "The land of the hummingbird," displays a hummingbird on its national coat of arms, its 1-cent coin and as the emblem of its national airline, Caribbean Airlines.


Enjoy my images of these truly amazing birds. Except for the first image below, we can't say for certain whether the other ruby-throated hummingbirds are adult females or juvenile males. Juvenile males (1st year males typically) look very similar to adult females. One of the best sources I've found on distinguishing and identifying ruby-throated hummingbirds is here:

  Ruby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileRuby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileNorthern Maryland Ruby Throated Hummingbird, MaleRuby Throated Hummingbird, Male



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