July 29, 2003

Honey, I Shrunk the Hummingbird

image copyright Fred First

They even make a similar whirring sound, since their wings beat at a rate and in a figure-8 manner necessary for hovering. No, this is not a genetically-reduced hummer but a "clearwing moth" or "hummingbird moth" that is visiting our butterfly bush just outside my window here. If you could get close enough, you'd notice the scales and antennae... even though the scales fall off the wings during the moth's first flight.

The most numerous visitor to the bush this year are several species of fast-flying skippers... a unique group of butterfly relatives that hold their wings together up over their back (so you can easily see both wings as in these examples) and they have clubbed antennae. They have relatively small, hard wings, and they lack the lazy flap-flap loopy flight of the much larger winged swallowtails... hence, perhaps the "skipping" that they do from flower to flower.

If you're just dying now to be able to amaze your friends and tell the difference between moths, butterflies and skippers, go here. And since I have you hyperventilating in an arthropodial frenzy, check out the Butterfly Flash Cards from eNature. Notice that when you click on one of these, it brings up the critter with a nice description, and also at the bottom, you can click on "Find species in your region" and get a very well done eNature list of all kinds of plants and animals specific to where you live. Learn just one new fellow-creature today; give it a name; know a new thing about the world.

Posted by fred1st at July 29, 2003 05:38 AM | TrackBack

Thank you for the links, Fred. I'll have to spend some time browsing when I can. As to your pseudo-hummer: You really had me going. The picture came up on my screen with the text below it still hidden. I thought to myself, "You've lost it old boy. My old eyes see an antenna and proboscus." You're like Gypsy Rose Lee, revealing a bit at a time. Nicely done!

Posted by: Cop Car at July 29, 2003 07:33 AM

Ah, mystery solved. A coworker said she had a baby hummingvird visit her feeder. I asked what made her think it was a baby and she said it still fuzzy and didn't have feathers. I was sure it wasn't a baby hummingbird, but couldn't tell her what it was. Now I know!

She shouldn't feel too bad, according to http://www.howardfamilyhomepage.net/page5b.html a lot of people make that mistake.

Posted by: bogie at July 29, 2003 07:37 AM

We have a butterfly garden in the side yard. My daughter is keeping a list of every butterfly visitor we get over the summer. Between butterflies and horses it gotten to where I can't talk to my 7 year old daughter. She is usally talking over my head!

Posted by: Chris at July 29, 2003 08:46 AM

I have been trying for weeks to photograph the hummingbird moth on the abelia bush outside my office window. I just can't seem to get it to sit still while I focus!

Posted by: bill at July 29, 2003 11:13 AM

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