6x6 relief carved hand painted humming bird tile
available at http://earthsongtiles.com
Humming birds have long been admired for their beauty and diligence. In the ancient Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs they were called "Huitzil"a word derived from the zip of their darting flight and humming wing beat. The speed and agility of the Huitzil has made it a symbol of vigor and vitality and due to the accuracy with which they use their long sharp beak, a connection to skill with weaponry and intimacy. Humming bird talismans were worn by the Aztecs to aid in mastery of weapon use and sexual potency. The symbolism of intimacy comes from the very real intimate relationship between flowers and humming birds, many species having evolved symbiotically with the flowers they pollinate and use as their primary energy source, both altering to become perfectly fitted and accessible to each other. Humming birds feed on ornithophilous flowers which are high in sucrose and reflect light in a particular way that attracts the birds, but not insect pollinators which prefer flowers high in fructose. This helps prevent "nectar robbing" as well as making the flower dependant on the humming bird for pollination. Nectar, being low in necessary vitamins is used primarily for fuel and the bulk of their nutrition is from small insects. Despite this they must drink from hundreds of flowers a day for only about 20% of the day, the rest of the time they need to perch in order to digest and conserve energy. Humming birds are very territorial over their food source and the constant chasing of one another, which is so entertaining to watch, is not play, but a fight for survival. Because of their high metabolism, the highest of any animal excluding insects, they are always on the brink of starvation. At night or when food is scarce they go into a hibernation like state known as a torpor. During torpor their heart rate slows to 1/15 of it's normal rate and kidney function mostly stops. This prevents the bird from starving or dehydrating overnight. Warmth brings them out of torpor and they must find nectar within about 20 minutes. Feeders can be helpful to humming birds ( though not so much to the flowers they pollinate) but when supplementing a natural food source like a flower we must remind ourselves of the intimacy and trust between humming birds and real flowers that tell them by their color and shape that they are there for them to survive, so by putting out a feeder to attract them we are making that same promise and it becomes our responsibility to up hold it.