Ruby: Before I migrate, the main thing I do differently is get myself really plump. I need to store energy in my body for the long-haul trip.
BTP: How do you manage to get so tanked up?
Ruby: I already told you, I’m really into flowers!
BTP: OK, we get the point.
Ruby: You have something against the shape of my beak? You wanna “get” my beak? I wouldn’t recommend that.
BTP: Oh, no, that’s not what I meant. Um, uh, I didn’t mean to offend you. … Can we talk about your migration?
Ruby: If you’re quick about it.
BTP: We’ve heard that in autumn some rubies migrate along the U.S. Gulf Coast to Mexico and Central America—and then back again in the spring—and that they stop to eat along the way. But we’ve also heard that some of you just fly straight across the gulf itself, over open waters non-stop for 20 hours. Is that true?
Ruby: Yep. That’s what I personally do, twice a year.
BTP: You must be completely exhausted when you reach land.
Ruby: And hungry!
BTP: Hungry is the theme of your life.
Ruby: Finally you get it. Plant me some flowers!
BTP: Are you hungry right now? Maybe a little “hangry”?
Ruby: I’m always hungry when I’m awake.
BTP: And always a bit fierce … And always incredibly handsome.
Ruby: Yup, ferocious and gorgeous.
BTP: Have people accused you of being a show-off?
Ruby: Accuse? No worries, I don’t mind the label. It’s like your poet guy Walt Whitman said, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself”—because I have to be a show-off. No male hummingbird who doesn’t have a show-off personality stands a chance with our females. Female hummers are PICKY about which males they’ll bother to pay any attention to. You can barely believe what I have to go through to have a lady friend in my life!
BTP: Please tell us about it.
Ruby: OK, so there are my scintillating feathers—gotta have those! But these ladies, they also want proof that a male ruby’s flying skills are top notch before they’ll give us the time of day. So to get a lady to notice me, I have to do ridiculously fast dive bombs from high above a gal, heading straight down at top speed until I’m close to her, and at the very last split second I’ve got to pivot up and away from her—and then do it all over again, and again.
Ruby: You’d find it cool to see. … Unfortunately, my courtship gets cut short by human desires for courtship.
BTP: How’s that?
Ruby: There’s this belief that keeping a dead hummingbird can give humans luck with romantic partners. There’s a whole trade in dead hummers as love charms.
BTP: How awful! And totally illegal!
Ruby: Yes, very illegal. Hummingbirds are protected species under the United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Chapter 1, Part 10, Subpart 13. There are even international agreements that protect us. We hummers have rights!
BTP: You’re the first bird we’ve ever had citing federal regulations and treaties to us. … What can we do to stop that trade?
Ruby: Don’t buy hummer amulets. Even though they’re illegal in the U.S., they get sold here anyway. Tell humans that killing hummingbirds will not attract partners for them. It’s not sexy to be a killer or to buy dead bodies. The number one thing to attract and keep a human mate, I hear, is just to be helpful and nice to them—and it’s easier than dive-bombing!
BTP: We’ll keep all that in mind! … Thank you so much for your time. Any last thing you’d like to say to us?
Ruby: Don’t judge my attitudes; evolution gave me a lifestyle that requires me to be the way I am in order to survive. Keep admiring me. Check out this movie about how amazing we hummers are, since I’ve hardly begun to tell you all the ways we can impress you! And help us out. I made time for this interview to get two main suggestions to bounce and bounce around your brains: keep house cats away from me, and plant the flowers I like. And then consider my presence in your town a gift.
BTP: A great gift! We appreciate your self-confidence and spunk. We want to keep you safe and well-fed. So thanks again for sharing your thoughts with Bird Town PA!