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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/280

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RUBY-THROATED HUMMING BIRD.

pert fly-catcher. The nectar or honey which they sip from the different flowers, being of itself insufficient to support them, is used more as if to allay their thirst. I have seen many of these birds kept in partial confinement, when they were supplied with artificial flowers made for the purpose, in the corollas of which water with honey or sugar dissolved in it was placed. The birds were fed on these substances exclusively, but seldom lived many months, and on being examined after death, were found to be extremely emaciated. Others, on the contrary, which were supplied twice a-day with fresh flowers from the woods or garden, placed in a room with windows merely closed with moschetto gauze-netting, through which minute insects were able to enter, lived twelve months, at the expiration of which time their liberty was granted them, the person who kept them having had a long voyage to perform. The room was kept artificially warm during the winter months, and these, in Lower Louisiana, are seldom so cold as to produce ice. On examining an orange-tree which had been placed in the room where these Humming Birds were kept, no appearance of a nest was to be seen, although the birds had frequently been observed caressing each other. Some have been occasionally kept confined in our Middle Districts, but I have not ascertained that any one survived a winter.

The Humming Bird does not shun mankind so much as birds generally do. It frequently approaches flowers in the windows, or even in rooms when the windows are kept open, during the extreme heat of the day, and returns, when not interrupted, as long as the flowers are unfaded. They are extremely abundant in Louisiana during spring and summer, and wherever a fine plant of the trumpet-flower is met with in the woods, one or more Humming Birds are generally seen about it, and now and then so many as ten or twelve at a time. They are quarrelsome, and have frequent battles in the air, especially the male birds. Should one be feeding on a flower, and another approach it, they are both immediately seen to rise in the air, twittering and twirling in a spiral manner until out of sight. The conflict over, the victor immediately returns to the flower.

If comparison might enable you, kind reader, to form some tolerably accurate idea of their peculiar mode of flight, and their appearance when on wing, I would say, that were both objects of the same colour, a large sphinx or moth, when moving from one flower to another, and in a direct line, comes nearer the Humming Bird in aspect than any other object with which I am acquainted.