by Jonathan Harrison
I'm a somewhat avid birdwatcher. In 7th grade I gave a class presentation entitled "Why you should watch birds!" Consequently, I didn't get my first kiss until I was 18, so I've been duly persecuted for both my beliefs in loving God and watching birds. My love for birds even snagged me a retail job working at Wild Birds Unlimited for 2 1/2 years, where I learned a lot more about birds and bird watching then I ever thought possible. So yea. I like to watch birds.
The end of August or early September marks the end of hummingbird season for the American south. Once the first cold snap hits, hummingbirds begin their (rather speedy) trek back to southern Mexico for the winter, and the majority of us have to wait until spring to see them again. Right now Hummingbirds are fattening up for the trip, so their activity tends to spike during the late summer early fall.
Outside of the humidity, one of the few things I dislike about the American south is that we have only one species of hummingbird: the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.* The Ruby is a beautiful bird, and you've probably seen one or two flying around flowers and feeders this summer trying to snag as much nectar as possible before making the long trip down to Mexico.
If you're lucky, you'll see hummingbirds also try to kill each other.
Hummingbirds, the Ruby-throated included, are some of the most territorial birds in the animal kingdom. They hate each other. As any avid hummingbird watcher will tell you, watching hummingbirds fight over backyard feeders provides some great entertainment. The hummingbirds believe that if they share a feeder they'll run out of nectar and starve to death. Being mean is a survival mechanism, and when you're that small you have to fight for everything.
Yet, somewhat ironically, the hummingbirds do not realize that the nectar never runs out. The US is filled with people that sit around all day waiting to refill their hummingbird feeders. Fighting for a feeder actually hurts more than it helps, yet still they continue trying to kill each other and wasting tons of energy.
I used to think that hummingbirds were stupid, but then I thought, "do humans act any different?"
As an American, I can't help but think we act a little bit like hummingbirds. In this country God has given a seemingly unending amount of resources, yet instead of trying to love each other, we hoard and tear down the competition. Our pantries are full of food, yet people in other countries, and in our own streets, go hungry every day. Although the hummingbird nectar is unending, we're much more content knowing that we have it all to ourselves rather than sharing the feeder and risk running out of juice.
I'm not sure if the metaphor stands under intense scrutiny, but you have to admit that we have a lot more in common with the little birds than we'd like to admit. Thankfully we have a higher nature, and although we need lots and lots of help, at least we have hope. So there you go. This weekend, don't be a hummingbird, and love your neighbor as your self.
Jonathan Harrison would like to remind you of that time when Nashville ran out of gasoline and there would have been plenty if we all shared but instead everyone tried to fill up as many tanks as possible lest the shortage get worse and it actually made the shortage much, much worse. Anyways. He's on twitter, and writes over at Dried Humor and Libranding. And he will cut you if you touch his sweet tea. Just try him.
*Rufous hummingbirds have been known to get confused and winter over in the deep south and sometimes make it up to Tennessee. Every winter at Wild Birds Unlimited we'd generally have one customer claim that they had spotted a Rufous in the middle of winter.