Earlier this week, a hybiscus bush blossomed in my side yard bringing with it the ruby-throated hummingbird seeking its nectar. The window beyond my computer monitor overlooks these purple blossoms and the delightful buzzing of these little birds has offered a minor respite for this temporarily desk-bound field ecologist. Selfishly perhaps, I subsequently bought a hummingbird feeder and placed it directly above the rocking chair on my front porch. In these strange times, it's amazing how a simple plastic feeder filled with red colored, vitamin enriched sugar water could bring me such joy.
Beyond my temporary digs in northern Virginia, the diversity of hummingbirds has recently astounded me. Growing up in the northeastern United States, hummingbirds were an infrequent but always discernible treat. If I saw a hummingbird, I knew it to be a ruby-throated one. Although I've read of their diversity, it wasn't until I traveled to the neotropics where I became enamored with the beautiful diversity of the hundreds of species in the family Trochilidae.
Hummingbirds are unique the the Americas and the Caribbean. Indeed the Eastern hemisphere has its own nectar-feeding birds but they are not hummingbirds. Sunbirds are no doubt beautiful convergently evolved counterparts to the familiar hummingbirds, but they lack incredible flight behavior of these frenetic feeders. Hummingbirds are an evolutionary product of new world ecology.
I took this photo in the cloud forests of Monte Verde in Costa Rica, while teaching a field course. These hummingbirds dodged the relentless raindrops as they flit between their floral quarry.