For the Birds Radio Program: Kim Kelly's Hummingbird Story

Original Air Date: July 2, 2003

Kim Kelly had a surprising interaction with a hummingbird.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are nesting now. Females are busy with eggs or babies while males chase off other birds and investigate everything on their territory. Males seem to have it easy, but their territorial chases are critical to keep competitors from draining the nectar from flowers anywhere near the nest, since it may take hours for a flower to replenish the nectar once a hummingbird visits it. During cool spells, eggs or babies can lose too much heat when females must spend too much time away searching for nectar-filled flowers.

Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, which helps them to notice newly-opened flowers in their vicinity. One of our Poplar, Wisconsin, listeners discovered how strong this attraction is. She writes about her two traditions this time of year: feeding hummingbirds and putting on the season’s newest colors of toenail polish. This year the two traditions collided in an unexpected and delightful moment.

Kim Kelly writes:

It was just about supper time and with the garden salad made and the chicken in the oven, I went to the front porch with my new ‘Too Hot Pink’ toenail polish. ‘Too Hot Pink’ is a vibrant berry-like hue, with the same deepness and splendor as the throat of a hummingbird. I’m confident about the color comparison, after seeing both together at close range.

While polishing my toenails, I heard a noise in the backyard, so I walked around the side of the house. The sound was just a red squirrel, but that’s when I saw the male ruby-throated hummingbird sipping sugar water at my feeder.

He was exquisitely perfect in form and style. He seemed inquisitive and confident, delicate, yet with a character strong as an experienced coal miner. I stood motionless with the bottle of toenail polish still in my hand. Then, as if by magnetism, he flew straight toward me with the speed of a bullet.

Without warning, he braked and hovered in mid flight, about six inches from the bottle of ‘Too Hot Pink.’ He was even more perfect at close range. His small eyes were fixed on the polish. His beak remained firmly shut and his wings vibrated and buzzed.

As though realizing his mistake, he cocked his needle beak skyward and zoomed off. He wove through the birch, oak, and balsam trees like a character in the movie, ‘ Honey I Shrunk the Kids.’ And he left me in awe, silent, yearning for his company again.

Never before had something so small impacted me so greatly.”

That was Kim Kelly, and I’m Laura Erickson, speaking For the Birds.