Hummingbirds have a symbiotic relationship with flowers: They buzz in close to drink the sweet nectar that the flowers make. While the hummer has its long beak and even longer tongue deep in the tube of the flower, it’s being dusted with pollen all across its face. Then, the bird will go on to the next flower, and the next, and the next...
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Audubon and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Adapted from a script by Frances Wood
This is BirdNote.
[Sounds of Ruby-throated Hummingbird]
Have you ever watched a hummingbird, hovering as it sips from a delicate flower?
John James Audubon, the French naturalist who spent his adult life studying and painting portraits of the birds of North America, described a hummingbird as a “glittering fragment of the rainbow.” The only hummingbird species that Audubon ever observed in nature was the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a summer visitor to eastern North America.
Hummingbirds have a symbiotic relationship with flowers: The hummingbirds buzz in close to drink the sweet nectar that the flowers make. While the hummer has its long beak and even longer tongue deep in the tube of the flower, it’s being dusted with pollen all across its face. From this flower, the bird will go on to the next flower, and the next, and the next. And each time the hummer goes in for a drink, in goes the long beak and the pollen-covered face… et voilà! — as Audubon would have said — pollination.
Birds do it, and bees do it, and Audubon knew it. He noted in his journal that hummingbirds “advance on fairy wings, carefully visiting every opening flower cup.”
Learn which hummingbirds might come to dine in your yard — at our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Michael Stein
Sounds of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller. Ambient track recorded by C. Peterson.
© 2019 Tune In to Nature.org June 2017 / 2019
Audubon’s account: http://www.audubon.org/bird/BoA/F24_G1c.html