It’s completely understandable why this particular group of birds has captivated the eyes, minds and hearts of people ever since they were discovered. Even though scientists had been observing birds for centuries, it was only when the Atlantic was crossed word started to spread about these tiny jewels that could be insects, but probably might actually be birds. They are of every conceivable colour, and even some in-between. And one bird can flash different colours at will. Although I can’t say that hummingbirds are my absolute favourite family, but they are definitely fun and easy to photograph. Often ridiculously tame, they are rather trusting of humans and very often allow for a close approach. Certain species will actually drink out of the palm of your hand! Locally, I think the tamest of them all is the White-chested Emerald. They’re curious, and tend to hang around feeders within a 10′ radius. This particular bird was using all sorts of different angles to try to figure out what I was doing.
Also tame, but a little less friendly, is the ubiquitous Copper-rumped Hummingbird. Unfortunately the spectrum of copper isn’t visible from the front, but this emerald is to die for. Which actually used to happen to many hummingbirds in historical times – First Peoples used to trap and kill them for their jeweled feathers. Thankfully, not on a massive scale, so we can still enjoy them now.
An easy way to photograph hummingbirds is to stake out a patch of flowering plants; these tiny engines constantly need refueling. Locally called “vervain/vervine(?)”, this plant feeds many different species of hummingbirds across the region. Seemingly similar to the previous jewel, the bluish wash to the front of this bird gives away its ID – Blue-chinned Sapphire – just taking a breather after a feeding session.
It may seem that this bird doesn’t live up to its name like the others, but the Ruby Topaz will blow you away when he’s in the mood. If you look closely, you can see hints of colour. Click here to see what the coloured version of this bird looks like.
Perhaps the only sub-family within the larger group of hummingbirds that may challenge the “tameness” of the species is the Hermit family. They are, as their name implies, secretive creatures. Generally keeping their distance, they don’t usually attend feeders, but only may steal a sip now and then. Their curved bills are suited for heliconia flowers, but this Little Hermit couldn’t resist the banquet put on by the vervain/vervine (argh, if anyone knows the correct spelling of this please let me know!).
Apart from flight shots, one of the most coveted of hummingbird images is that of the stretch. All feathers are extended, and in the case of this Black-throated Mango; the various colours are all on mouth-watering display. That fiery tail seals the deal for me!