There's something intriguing about the hummingbird. Perhaps it's the size of the miniature flier that can weigh as little as a Lincoln penny. Maybe it's the bird's seemingly frantic flight, fueled by a voracious appetite and accented by humming wings that can beat 200 times per second during courtship flights. Or perhaps it's the impressive fortitude that carries some migrating species on journeys from Florida to Canada, across the Gulf of Mexico or from Tallahassee to Alaska, where the orange-colored Rufous Hummingbird regularly breeds during milder seasons.
People are captivated by hummingbirds for all sorts of reasons, said expert birder Andy Wraithmell, who works as an information specialist for the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.
"They are really quite beautiful," he said. "I think a lot of people like them because they are so unique and they seem to be kind of inquisitive."
And there's a brashness about the tiny birds that can be territorial in a big way.
"I often say if hummingbirds were the size of eagles we'd be in trouble. I've seen them get into it. They have dogfights. They'll chase other birds and chase each other," Wraithmell said, adding that hummingbirds can be none too shy when it comes to demanding a handout from humans. "I wish I had a dollar for each person who has told me that the hummingbirds come right up to their window when the feeder needs changing."
Avid birder Bev Hansen has been watching the patterns of transient and nesting species for close to 27 years now, ever since she and her husband, Al, settled in Spring Hill and joined the Hernando Audubon Society as a way to meet new people.
The birds ended up being a delightful study.
"All of the sudden you have this burst of color in front of you, then just as suddenly, it's gone," she said, adding that, because of their high metabolism, hummingbirds eat about six times every hour.
Hansen, who volunteers regularly at Chinsegut Conservation Center in Brooksville, will share her expansive knowledge about the habits of these tiny fliers at the Hummingbird Festival held on Saturday at the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City.
The Hummingbird Festival is the last gala of the museum's special event season and is expected to bring some 300 to 600 visitors to hear local speakers talk about hummingbirds, butterflies, native plants or learn about the days of old while touring the museum grounds.
Other activities held throughout the day include "Sacred Harp Singing" in the museum's church and entertainment by local bluegrass musicians the Barking Dogs. Children will have the opportunity to build a bluebird box, and the gift shop will be stocked with hummingbird and garden gifts. There also will be arts and crafters, old-time craft demonstrations and Florida native plant sales.
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Bev Hansen will speak at the Hummingbird Festival on Saturday at the Pioneer Florida Museum. Her name was misspelled in the original version of this article.