It’s the third year in a row that Mrs. Humdinger Hummer—or maybe her daughter, possibly her grand-daughter?—has come to settle in on the nest out in our back yard. While I was making up my own bed, I peeked out the window to check out the clouds coming in and discovered the little gal sitting on this beak-woven masterpiece of grass, hair and lichens that is wound around the circular part of a window decoration.
Time to kiss our clean sliding glass door good-bye, I told my husband. For the next couple of months, Mrs. Hummer will be edging us out of our own patio, by our own permission. We will give her full usage of the space, which means that when her babies hatch, their droppings will decorate the door and the floor directly underneath the nest. Small price to pay for god-motherhood, I suppose.
Local birder and San Diego Audubon member Phil Pryde says that it’s not so unusual for the little helicopter birds to take up nesting in winter. However, they usually do so in February. What surprises me even more is how Mrs. Hummer has ignored the icy weather of this January. I do know that hummingbirds have an amazing metabolism—and an ability to go into a deep state of sleep known as torpor.
Mrs. Humdinger Hummer’s metabolism will lower to one-fifteenth of her normal state. Her body temperature will drop to the point of becoming hypothermic, and her heart rate will drop to about 50 beats per minute. Her breathing will become so slow that it will look as if she might have stopped breathing together. But by sleeping like this, she can save up to 60% of her available energy.
So I do breathe easy when I pull shut the drapes at night to give her some privacy. Still, I think she’d prefer the normal balmy weather we have in January. In that way, she and I are very much alike. That, and we both like the patio.