Open main menu

Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/279

This page has been validated.

are aware of their approach. No bird seems to resist their attacks, but they are sometimes chased by the larger kinds of humble-bees, of which they seldom take the least notice, as their superiority of flight is sufficient to enable them to leave these slow moving insects far behind in the short space of a minute.

The nest of this Humming Bird is of the most delicate nature, the external parts being formed of a light grey lichen found on the branches of trees, or on decayed fence-rails, and so neatly arranged round the whole nest, as well as to some distance from the spot where it is attached, as to seem part of the branch or stem itself. These little pieces of lichen are glued together with the saliva of the bird. The next coating consists of cottony substance, and the innermost of silky fibres obtained from various plants, all extremely delicate and soft. On this comfortable bed, as in contradiction to the axiom that the smaller the species the greater the number of eggs, the female lays only two, which are pure white and almost oval. Ten days are required for their hatching, and the birds raise two broods in a season. In one week the young are ready to fly, but are fed by the parents for nearly another week. They receive their food directly from the bill of their parents, which disgorge it in the manner of Canaries or Pigeons. It is my belief that no sooner are the young able to provide for themselves than they associate with other broods, and perform their migration apart from the old birds, as I have observed twenty or thirty young Humming Birds resort to a group of Trumpet-flowers, when not a single old male was to be seen. They do not receive the full brilliancy of their colours until the succeeding spring, although the throat of the male bird is strongly imbued with the ruby tints before they leave us in autumn.

The Ruby-throated Humming Bird has a particular liking for such flowers as are greatly tubular in their form. The Common Jimpson-weed or Thorn-apple (Datura Stramonium) and the Trumpet-flower (Bignonia radicans) are among the most favoured by their visits, and after these, Honeysuckle, the Balsam of the gardens, and the wild species which grows on the borders of ponds, rivulets, and deep ravines; but every flower, down to the wild violet, affords them a certain portion of sustenance. Their food consists principally of insects, generally of the coleopterous order, these, together with some equally diminutive flies, being commonly found in their stomach. The first are procured within the flowers, but many of the latter on wing. The Humming Bird might therefore be looked upon as an ex-