Over the past few months, many of us have taken on “COVID projects” to maintain a sense of purpose and make staying at home a little more enjoyable. Vegetable gardens are popping up everywhere, causing seeds to be in short supply. For a while, you couldn’t find yeast or flour because so many people were baking bread. Aluminum cans have been scarce, as more of us are becoming amateur mixologists and using seltzer and tonic for homemade cocktails. And as I write this, we’re experiencing a lumber shortage because of all the DIY remodeling homeowners are tackling, not to mention record-low interest rates leading to high demand for more new homes.
As for me, I’ve been creating a backyard bird oasis. It stars a bird bath that’s always in demand, hardy flowering perennials chosen to attract pollinators and multiple hummingbird feeders. Though any guest is welcome, the hummingbirds are easily my favorite. Watching them outside my office window as they gently hover over a feeder, dip their long tongues into the nectar I made for them and then dart away is completely mesmerizing. (I’m sure my ASCM team members are wondering why I seem a bit zoned out during video calls.)
I’ve read up on hummingbirds and discovered a few fun facts. For instance, their wings flap about 80 times per second, their eggs are smaller than jellybeans, and they can’t smell. That last one surprised me, as they have no problem finding the flowers I’ve planted. Turns out, their excellent vision gives them a keen eye for bright colors. Perhaps most impressively, they’re the only birds that can fly backwards.
At the risk of sounding any more bird-obsessed than I already do, I thought I’d share some insights I’ve gained from these remarkable creatures:
Work smart. When I put up my first feeder, I worried that it would take the hummingbirds a long time to find it — or that they might find it, but then forget where it is. How wrong I was. Apparently, hummingbirds remember every single flower or feeder they visit. No time is lost hunting for nectar; they already have a plan. Efficiently accessing that sugar is critical because of how much energy they expend in flight.
Improvise. Hummingbirds are no heavier than two playing cards, and this minuscule size equals flexibility, dexterity and speed. In addition to flying backwards, they can go sideways or completely upside down! This allows them to easily access nectar from flowers in awkward places and from any direction. As any of us living through this pandemic can attest, we can’t always depend on our best laid plans. Imagine if we were all so agile with the different situations we encounter in life, as well as the pathways toward our goals.
Relish solitude. Hummingbirds are not particularly social. They prefer to fight over territory than embrace the company of other birds. While most of us are probably ready to reconnect with our social circles at this point, there’s something to appreciate about looking inward and listening to our own needs.
Rejuvenate. Hummingbirds are constantly moving, so they take sleep seriously, entering a state akin to hibernation. I’m a big fan of hard work — and I think most people agree that work has been particularly grueling recently. But this is why we must take the time to relax and refresh.
Make a lasting impact. Hummingbirds carry pollen from plant to plant, laying the groundwork for next year’s blossoms. It’s easy to feel isolated these days, but we do have a collective purpose: to keep each other healthy, to watch out for our neighbors and to rebuild a better world for the next generation.