What is it about the hummingbird that captures our attention? How do these tiny creatures stir up such joyous, youthful emotions and excitement in even the most hardened of people? They’re enigmatic creatures, symbolic of love, joy, happiness, life, energy, and more, but there must be something deeper that holds our attention on them. As I researched them for this article, it became clear they exhibit some of the attributes of resilience we need in order to thrive.
The calliope hummingbird is the smallest variety in North America measuring 3” in length, beak to tail. The most familiar variety in North America, the ruby-throated hummingbird has an average weight of 3 grams, less than a nickel. It would take more than 150 of them to weigh 1 pound.
Despite their small size, hummingbirds are among the most aggressive, territorial birds known to humans. They fearlessly attack jays and hawks, which are several times their size. And they guard their food source fiercely, flying directly at any creature that threatens their domain. The variety most common to our desert paradise is the black-chinned hummingbird (pictured in this post), which is characterized by its extremely loud buzzing sound as it flies. You know when they’re coming at you!
Hummingbirds are found only in North, Central, and South America. Despite their limited distribution, they’re familiar and fascinating to people world-wide. Currently, there are more than 330 species of hummingbirds and nearly 1/5 of them are endangered. Their existence is fragile because declines in their food sources and habitats have arisen from climate change, deforestation, and land development.
The threat is not an insurmountable obstacle; many of the varieties of this bird can reproduce with other varieties. They’re a living science lesson, evolving and changing, practically before our eyes. What’s more, the potential for new varieties as a result of their adaptive nature is staggering.
Some species of hummingbird migrate to the US each spring. But in order to do so, they must first store up half their body weight in fat. Wonder why? It’s because they make the 500+ mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight lasting 20 hours or longer. What’s more, they make the migratory flight alone.
Hummingbirds hover, unlike any other bird species. This feat requires extraordinary energy, meaning their wings beat at anywhere from 720 to 5400 beats per minute. Additionally, they can maintain their sense of direction in flight during a rainstorm. They dispel water by shaking their heads at 132 shakes per second and a rotation of up to 202 degrees.
Why the fascination with hummingbirds?
My husband came running excitedly into the house a couple of weeks ago to tell me we have a hummingbird nest right outside our bedroom window. We’ve found ourselves fiercely guarding mama and her clutch of eggs, going so far as to stop the gardeners from trimming the orange tree where she’s nesting.
We’ve been watching eagerly to see when the new hummingbird babies hatch. And as we’ve watched, I’ve become increasingly focused on the symbolism alive in this enigmatic creature. But how can we learn resilience from the hummingbird?
Lessons in resilience
Be feisty. If you’re creating change in your life, pick a goal for yourself that’s worth fighting for. If you’re working to build your resilience, remind yourself how you felt when you did something that made you proud. Hold onto it and let it permeate your thoughts as you take on your next challenge.
Be adaptable. Being adaptable doesn’t mean you give up on your dream or change direction every time the wind blows. It means you actively look for different ways of getting where you want to go. It means you explore options that allow you to reach your goal and enjoy a distraction or two along the way.
Be determined. To be resilient, it helps to be determined. If your big goal is too overwhelming for you to think about, break it into smaller pieces. Give yourself some interim milestones that allow you to stop and celebrate your successes along the way to your larger goal. Being determined sometimes means you have your eye on a big prize with small rewards along the way.
Harness the resilient power of the hummingbird in your life. And let me know how it goes!