Hummingbird, Echo Bay ON

Given where I was and when, Merlin tells me that this is likely a ruby-throated hummingbird.  The lack of any ruby flash on the throat tells me that it’s likely a female or an immature male.

Front and side view of hummingbord at feeder.

With an overcast day, lighting conditions were good only intermittently.  With skittish birds, I couldn’t get any closer than about 10 feet.  What’s left after cropping are small files indeed.

I am more or less resigned to never getting any National Geographic shots of these birds (Hope still blooms elsewhere), so I’ve learned to enjoy the ones I do get.  After all, they represent my best efforts with respect to both the technical aspects (shutter speeds and ISO limits) and timing (waiting not so patiently for the sun to emerge from behind a cloud and the hummer to emerge from the woods).  


Hummingbird at feeder, with wasps.


Back view of humminbgird at feeder, seeming to struggle with its balance.
Whoops! Steady as she goes!


Front view of hummingbird at feeder, seeming to direct an orchestra.
All together now . . .






  1. John Whitman

    Isabel – I have never managed to get a picture of a hummingbird, and in fact I have never tried, but I did manage to capture one in my hand once.
    Between my mother’s hummingbird feeder and the weeping-willow tree that the hummingbirds liked to nest or roost in was a separate 1½ story building that had once been a carriage house and then got converted into a garage for the tractor. The garage doors faced the house and at the rear of the building at the peak of the roof was a window that looked out on the willow tree. One day when the doors were open, a hummingbird decided to take a shortcut between the feeder and the tree by going through the garage. When I went into the garage to get something, there he was beating his head against the window. I put a ladder up to the window so I could shoo him back out the doors, but he was an obstinate little beast. He’d only back off from the window about half the length of the garage and as soon as I got down from the ladder to shoo him the rest of the way to the doors; zoom, he’d be right back at the window. After 3 or 4 attempts at that I gave up and decided to see if I could corner him at the window. As luck would have it I managed to finally corral him in a corner of the window with just his head sticking out of my lightly closed fist. Down the ladder and out the door I went and as soon as I was outside, off he went none the worse for wear.
    I’ve have often wondered what story he told to explain why he was late getting back to the nest that day.
    John W

      1. John Whitman

        Isabel – Somewhere in my early to mid-50’s, which is probably why I had the patience to finally corral the little bugger without doing him damage.
        John W

        1. It’s like when you try to guide a fly in the window down to the opened-just-a-crack-at-the-bottom screen. They originally work their way up to the top looking for an escape, then drop right back down and start going up again. Most find the crack and leave.

          Funny that flies don’t come in using that crack, or other bugs.

          1. John Whitman

            Isabel – I hadn’t thought about my short-time pet hummingbird for years, but I will always admit that I was aided greatly by a glass window pane that that bird kept trying to get through even as my hand closed in on him. And after I managed to cover him with my hand against the pane, I’m still not certain who was more surprised, me or him. Once I had him in my hand he didn’t struggle at all, as most wild animals would.

            On the topic of birds, I wonder if birds act on instinct or intelligence, or some combination of both. Inside that same garage on one of the rafters up near the roof’s peak was a barn swallow’s nest. Those swallows seemed to have no problem determining that the easiest way into and out of the garage was through the wide open double-doors. I never once saw a swallow try to use the window. Even after I closed the doors to keep the hummingbirds at bay, there was enough of a gap between the door frame top plate and one of the doors that had sagged, that the swallows went through that gap without slowing down much – and the gap was no more than 1¼ inches.

            John W

          2. Isabel Gibson

            John – That’s interesting. Barn swallows do make their nests in places like barns, and under picnic shelter roofs, maybe because they have adapted to flying in and out of relatively confined spaces. And pretty smartly, it sounds like.

  2. Jim Taylor

    I have sometimes argued that bird brains are more competent than human brains. They can work spatially in three dimensions, for example; they integrate time (as in the lashing a branch in the wind) better than we can. Crows are now known to make one tool that will enable them to make or reach a second tool and thus achieve their purpose; no other living creature other than humans attains that level of complexity of thinking. With no disrespect to John, I think we underestimate the intelligence of birds, because we encounter them in situations that are utterly alien to their life experience. If the situations were reversed, they would probably consider us irretrievably stupid.
    Jim T

      1. Jim Taylor

        I’d never seen that series. The crow sliding was clearly doing it intentionally — he took his sled up to the top with him each time. And the related videos show the crow applying reasoning power, choosing the most efficient means of getting to his berry, or whatever it was.Thank you for those.
        Jim T

        1. Isabel Gibson

          Jim – I remember discussing the sliding video with a zoologist I know. When I interpreted it as (obviously) fun-seeking behavior, he demurred. I guess the sophisticated/knowledgeable view is that it’s behaviour that’s getting him something, but what that something is, is hard to say.

  3. John Whitman

    Isabel – It looks to me like your Russian crow has the lid off of a food container of some kind. I say that because he keeps pecking at the inside edge of the lid.
    As a crow, his natural instinct is to be up high where he can keep an eye out for hawks and owls while he eats. That’s why he keeps returning to the peak of the roof. Unfortunately for him, plastic lids, metal roofs and snow make for a slippery combination.

    The next time you see a murder (I almost said flock) of crows on the ground eating, look for the nearest tall tree or roof and you’ll probably see a single crow acting as a lookout for predators and other threats while the rest eat.

    John W

  4. John Whitman

    Isabel – For such a small bird, hummingbirds definitely generate a lot of interest and conversation.
    After thinking about Jim Taylor’s comment (which didn’t offend me in the least) about birds being more intelligent than we give them credit for, I am now left to wonder about the following.
    Does intelligence lead to instinct over time or is it the other way around? Or is it that there isn’t any relation at all between intelligence and instinct?
    When I used to ride my bicycle along the bike paths around Medicine Hat and I saw a rattlesnake along the side of the path, was it intelligence or instinct or both that told me to leave that snake alone?
    John W

      1. John Whitman

        Based on your link, it seems that intelligence evolves over time from instinct, but where did the instinct come from in the first place?
        My brain hurts!
        John W

  5. Alison Uhrbach

    WOW! Seems you’ve generated a LOT of interest from the mention of hummingbirds, let alone birds in general. Personally, I love watching hummingbirds!! especially when they are sitting resting in a tree. We (well, our locale) attracted many many hummingbirds when we lived in the country. I would watch them from my kitchen window. What always amazed me was the timing of their feeding. You could almost set your watch by them, they were surprisingly regular at the feeders.
    Now you’ve made me want to go search for photos I’ve taken of hummingbirds!! none of them too good, but all with good memories. However, it’s “head down and keep packing” at our house these days! See you soon!

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Alison – Yes, maybe I should make it a hummer blog! In talking today to my neighbourhood photographers, I find that the only way to freeze their wings is with a set-up that uses multiple flashes. Knowing that sort of thing makes me a little happier with my shots. As for packing, it would go faster if you threw out every second item . . . Just sayin’. #DoasIsaynotasIdo

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