Recently I had the honor of speaking at the Spring Garden Symposium in Plains. Plains Chautauqua, the Magnolia District of the Garden Club of Georgia, Inc., and the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail sponsored this wonderful event.
One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy making presentations such as this is that it gives me the opportunity to meet fantastic people that enjoy and appreciate nature. In addition, over the years, I have learned volumes about wildlife and plants from the folks that I meet at these events. Such was the case in Plains.
This time, a woman from Oglethorpe recounted to me something she witnessed taking place just outside her window that added to my knowledge about ruby-throated hummingbirds.
It seems that she just happened to notice a rubythroat fly up to a planter filled with various plants, including a cotton plant festooned with balls of cotton. As she watched, the hummingbird flew up to a cotton ball, dislodged a snippet of cotton fibers and fly off. She said she could not believe what she saw until the bird returned again and again for bits of cotton. I told her that I had never heard of a ruby-throated hummingbird collecting bits of cotton. I also said that I believe there is a good chance the bird was using the soft, white cotton fibers to line its nest.
A quick check of the literature revealed that rubythroats are known to line their nests with down collected from a number of plants such as milkweed, thistle, and ferns, but not cotton.
I am convinced that people throughout the state are harboring a wealth of information about wild plants and animals that is unknown to the scientific community. In this case, the woman that reported a hummingbird collecting cotton fibers may be the first or only person that has ever witnessed and reported this odd behavior.
I find it exciting to know that, even though we are living in the early twenty-first century, there are so many unsolved mysteries swirling around the natural world.
If you have ever seen something unusual such as this, please let me know. The knowledge you possess may help us better understand and appreciate the plants and animals with whom with share the world.