the weight of a hummingbird

juvenile anna's hummingbird

Half an hour ago, I noticed Winter (the cat who came out of the woods to live with us in January) at the screen door. He had something in his mouth. He sometimes catches mice and we approve of this—when they find their way into the house, it’s not fun; the mathematics of deer-mouse reproduction is kind of scary. Once I found a nest in some abandoned Halloween candy in a son’s room. Another found its way into a backpack with a leftover sandwich. In other words, our house is a kind of paradise for mice of the adventurous sort.

But today his prize was a hummingbird. He was eager to show me. And he was gentle when I removed it from his mouth. It was still alive, its long bifurcated tongue reaching out, its eyes bright. I took it upstairs, to a deck the hummingbirds love for the roses growing there, and the lilies just in bloom. In one foot, I could see a thin strand of dry moss. Did Winter find a perching bird? I sometimes see them perching on the ocean spray bushes this time of year, taking a break from nectar seeking. Never mind. It was alive.

I held it in one hand and wondered what to do. Set it down in a rose and go down to make some sugar water to see if it would recover? It seemed in shock. I looked at it carefully. No blood. Wings intact. I think it was a juvenile Anna’s—the only colour I could see, apart from its grey throat, was emerald green, the feathers on its back like the most delicate chain mail. I put it gently down in a potted rose and then stepped back. It looked around, once, twice, then whirred away in the direction of the vegetable garden.

When I came back down to the kitchen, I wondered about the weight. 0.01-0.02 ounces, the bird books tell me. I reached for a few almonds to snack on and on impulse put a few on my kitchen scale. 3 almonds. That’s the weight of a hummingbird. Can you imagine a life so light, almost unbearably light, coming in to your house in the mouth of a cat, then reviving in your hand, your roses? Whatever else happens today will seem ordinary in contrast.

3 thoughts on “the weight of a hummingbird”

    1. I suspect Winter would have dealt a death blow (or bite) if he’d had the little bird in his mouth much longer. But he didn’t mind me taking it away from him!

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