Dead Hummingbirds

Did you know there are between 200-400 billion birds in the world at any given moment?  Even at the low side (200 billion) that’s a lot of birds.  Yet we know so little about them.  I recall a comic once who built a routine around the fact that you never see baby pigeons.  He had a point.  You also rarely see dead birds.  There are the road kill bodies, usually sea gulls who were too greedy and too stupid to get out of the way.  But with all the birds around it seems as if you would, on a fairly regular basis, see dead birds in your yard, in parks, at the seashore … you know, places where birds hang out.  But you don’t.

So, it was with complete and utter amazement that I found a dead hummingbird in my front yard. I caught a glimpse of his tail feathers and dismissed it as a mushroom but something made me turn back.

There he was, nestled down into the tall grass.  Had he fallen from the tree?  Did a gust of wind catch him the wrong way and drive him into the Augustine grass?  Upon picking him up I dismissed the idea of a predator.  He was fully in tact, no sign of blood or trauma.  And so light … featherweight indeed.   There’s the obvious joke about birds finding the hospice nurse home and kicking the bucket.  But we’ll probably never know why this little guy was dead on my front lawn.  It was a wonderful opportunity to hold a hummingbird and experience the lightness of a remarkable being.  Naturally I snapped some pictures to preserve the memory.  I doubt this will come my way again.

(Originally published October 4, 2009)

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