Skip to main content

Hummingbird versus eagle

I received an interesting email from Tim Tolford yesterday. He saw that I would be at the Amish Bird Symposium in Adams County this coming Saturday, and that my talk subject is hummingbirds. So, Tim piped along a really cool photo of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that he caught and banded in 2010. This got me thinking about the tremendous diversity of avifauna, and just how tiny hummingbirds really are.

By the way, the Amish Bird Symposium is always a blast, and you may still be able to get in. CLICK HERE.


An adult Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, floats gracefully overhead. I took this photo in the winter of 2010, in Ohio. So, this is one of the tough northern eagles, and they grow bigger than the wimpy warm weather southern eagles, such as are found in Florida. And, we're going to assume she is a big fat female - girl eagles outweigh the boys by a good margin. I'm pegging her weight at the upper end of the spectrum - 15 pounds.

Contrast that beastly big bird with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which tapes out at 3.75 inches, has a wingspan of 4.5 inches, and weighs all of 3.2 grams. It would require nearly 8.5 hummingbirds, arranged from bill to tail, to equal the body length of the eagle. Whoop-de-do. That's not a staggering factoid. The line of hummers would have to be expanded to 18 birds to bridge the eagle's wingspan - a bit more impressive but still somewhat of a yawner comparofactoid.

But wait - what about weight? This is where comparisons between these two birds get mind-boggling. You would need a pile of 2,128 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to equalize the scales, if this Bald Eagle was the counterbalance. That is a LOT of hummingbirds! Considering that Ohio's total breeding population of hummingbirds is probably about 50,000 birds, we only have enough hummingbirds in this state to make 23.5 Bald Eagles.

So, let's say you had your hands on that pile of 2,128 eagle-equaling hummingbirds, and placed them in a line, tail to bill. Then you pulled out the tape measure and paced off the row of hummingbirds. You'd have to step off 665 feet before you reached the last bird!

That skyscraper above is the James A. Rhodes State Office Tower, the tallest building in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Our string of hummingbirds, if dangled from a helicopter, would have to be held at a height 36 feet HIGHER than the 629 foot tall Rhodes Tower before the last bird would touch the ground.

Wee though they may be, we'd all be in mortal peril if these hummingbirds were the size of eagles. The little nectar-sippers are tough as nails and absolutely fearless. I have no doubt whatsoever that if a Bald Eagle rudely impinged on a hummingbird's turf, the hummer would terrorize the comparatively elephantine and sluggish raptor. And in the world of avian aeronautics, nothing holds a candle to hummingbirds in the stunt-flying department - certainly not an eagle.

Comments

zippiknits said…
Thrilling! We have a Costa's out here on the coast which isn't much bigger than a Ruby throat.

Happy Birding!
Vincent Lucas said…
Um, our "wimpy Southern Eagles" kick ass too Jim!
Anonymous said…
yea, jimmy:) ;)

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…