Both ruby-throated hummingbirds and orchard orioles reside in my backyard during the spring and summer. Over the years, these birds have been key players in some of my most memorable wildlife sightings. Recently, they transformed what was otherwise a typical spring day into one I will never forget—a day of three firsts.
This trio of events began while I was standing beneath a cherry tree listening to the songs of gray catbirds and orchard orioles.
All of a sudden, a male ruby-throated hummingbird flew up to a nearby patch of Wendy’s Wish salvia and began thrusting its bill into the plants’ long, slender, maroon blossoms.
Although the plants had been blooming for several weeks, this marked the first time I had seen these new additions to my backyard visited by rubythroats.
Then, early in the afternoon, as my wife and I were standing in our sunroom I happened to spot a bird land on a stalk topped with a torch-like cluster of red hot poker blooms. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and focused on the bird. Much to my surprise, the bird proved to be a female orchard oriole.
As my wife and I watched, the bird pushed her bill upward into a number of drooping, slender, orange-red blooms. The oriole fed at two more stalks of the odd flowers before flying to a nearby birdbath where she drank before flying off.
This sighting was my second first of the day. While my wife and I planted the red hot pokers to provide nectar for hummingbirds, until then, we had never seen red hot poker blossoms visited by an orchard oriole
To top it all off, late in the afternoon, my wife was watering plants on our deck as I stood on the ground between the deck and a nearby flowering dogwood tree. While talking to my wife a flash of red originating from something on the ground not twenty-five feet away caught my eye. When turned my head toward the source of the red color, I realized that the afternoon sun had set the gorget of a male rubythroat aglow. Then it suddenly dawned on me that a pair of hummingbirds were mating. I called to my wife in hopes she too would see the bird. When I walked a couple of steps toward the deck, the male lifted a couple of feet off the ground, hovered, and then returned to its mate. A few minutes later, they both flow away.
My wife and I were spellbound. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine we would witness anything like this.
I was indeed extremely fortunate to experience three firsts in one day.
Each day when I walk into my backyard, I wonder what I will see next.
No, unlike us, birds do not have sweat glands.
When we work outside on a sweltering hot, humid summer day, within minutes our skin and clothing are wet with sweat. Sweating helps keep us from overheating.
Since birds do not have sweat glands, they must rely on other means to keep their body temperature from reaching dangerous levels. One of the main ways they are able to accomplish this is by panting.
If you closely watch the birds moving about your backyard when temperatures soar, you are apt to see one or more pant. When a bird is panting it holds its bill open longer than it normally would and increases its breathing rate. This greatly increases the flow of air across the moist, warm surfaces of its respiratory tract. This helps dissipates the bird’s body heat.
As you might expect, you are most likely to see this behavior during the hottest parts of the day.