National Geographic : 1932 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by A. A . Allen A NEWLY HATCHED RUBY-THROAT AND A RED-LEGGED LOCUST The swelling on the side of the young bird's neck is its crop distended by a recent injection of nectar from its mother. Most of the nests that I have found have come to my notice from the pugnacious at tacks of the females, whose repeated dart ing at birds that came near, or at my head as I passed, gave notice that a nest was some where about. Two white eggs, resembling pearls against their background of plant down, are laid by most species whose nest ing habits are known. Occasionally one egg constitutes a set, and rarely three are found, but this is unusual. Though large in comparison to the size of the parent, in the case of the smaller hummers, the eggs are very tiny. Those of the vervain hum mer of Haiti, a species that is barely larger than the smallest species known, measure less than half an inch long by one-third of an inch in diameter. THE HUMMING BIRD IS A MEAT-EATER AS WELL AS A NECTAR-DRINKER That humming birds feed on the nectar of flowers is universally known, but the part that nectar plays in their diet is not so great as is popularly believed, since large numbers of tiny flies, bees, beetles, and other insects, as well as spiders, are cap tured in the flower corollas.* These tiny birds are hungry for meat as well as for sweets. The dozens of stom achs of the various species that I have ex amined to learn something of their food have been filled with fragments of insects and spiders. After the nutriment has been extracted from these, the indigestible parts are formed into tiny pellets that are regur gitated to empty the stomach for another meal. Some kinds of hummers, particularly forest-inhabiting forms, pay little attention to blossoms, but spend much of their time in gleaning over the moss-covered bark of the trees of their forest haunt searching for animal food. I have seen others feeding on tiny gnats gathered in whirling clouds in the air. The hummers hung with rapidly vibrating wings, seizing the minute insects one by one in flight and whirling about with the greatest celerity in securing their prey. * See, also, "Holidays with Humming Birds," by Margaret L. Bodine, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE for June, 1928.