Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, but many of them are small and inconspicuous. As green beetles clunk around my fig trees and bees buzz between basil leaves, my attention is often drawn to a less recognized, yet vitally important, pollinator: the hummingbird.
A Life of Pollination
It wasn’t until I started gardening that I began to appreciate these little marvels. Some time ago I noticed a hummingbird buzzing around the avocado tree in the center of my garden. It eventually created a nest and raised two chicks in the tree and I – honored to protect the tiny family – became obsessed.
Hummingbirds live a life of extremes. They are the smallest birds, yet have the fastest metabolic rate of any vertebrate. In order to conserve precious energy at night, they enter a state of hibernation called torpor. Even in this state, hummingbirds burn roughly ten percent of their body weight each night, so it’s no surprise that they are always on the lookout for reliable sources of food. Unbeknownst to me, I had created one right in my own backyard.
Flowers are not my forté and, unless they are going to transform into delicious food, I rarely grow them, so I was initially surprised at how often hummingbirds frequent my green space. Turns out that nectar is not their only source of food. Something much more nutrient dense was attracting them: small insects and arthropods.
On a hot day, my three compost piles are teeming with creepy crawly life and the hummingbirds had realized this. I would spot them on the power lines directly above my compost and every minute or two they would dip down and disappear in the piles. This energy goldmine was drawing them to my garden and, at the same time, putting a smile on my face.
While they don’t directly contribute to my vegetable yield, I welcome these little beasts into my garden because they strengthen my connection to the natural world around me. After all, gardening isn’t just about nurturing plants. It’s also about enriching our lives and creating memorable experiences. So every spring, I often find myself glancing toward those power lines; awaiting that all too familiar hum.