SoCal Connected on KCET

Inside the Lives of Hummingbirds

Original Airdate August 13, 2014

Val Zavala: This is Tom. This is Tom in his backyard in Costa Mesa and this is the story of how Tom got one of the most unusual hummingbird shots I’ve seen. Here it is. Watch very carefully on the right. The little guy in the nest is about the popular kid’s book says, “everybody poops.” It started one spring when Tom noticed a nest in this hanging plant. It’s actually a plastic plant.

Tom Tanquary: And they found it to be the perfect little home. It was sheltered from the rain and out of the wind and not accessible by any other animal. They figured it was real, so they built a nest in it.

Val Zavala: He soon saw something sticking out.

Tom Tanquary: We saw these tiny little red..they looked like needles sticking up from the nest. You can get high enough to look in and the babies were the size of a pea, probably. With this red needle sticking out of it.

Val Zavala: It was time to get out the camera.

Tom Tanquary: When they started to develop, it was like wow. And I thought the only way you’re going to get her to cross is through this video.

Val Zavala: Now it just so happens that Tom is a professional videographer. So his project went from this to this. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. He decided to try out a new slow motion camera.

Tom Tanquary: And then watching them then just became a whole new world. It was just absolutely fascinating watching their movement slowed down that much.

Val Zavala: This is what meal time looks like in normal hummingbird speed.

Tom Tanquary: It’s so violent when you watch it. It’s almost like a woodpecker. It’s just like whoa, how does she not kill them? She obviously doesn’t, but it was just...never seen anything like that.

Val Zavala: This is what it looks like slowed down. He also captured video of adult birds in the yard.

Tom Tanquary: The wings don’t flap straight up and down like a normal bird. They flap in a figure eight pattern. If you watch it in slow motion, you can see that the wing does this figure 8 thing -- much like a helicopter. They can fly straight up, straight down, sideways, backwards.

Val Zavala: If you think human babies eat a lot, these little guys get fed every fifteen minutes, which made it really easy for Tom.

Tom Tanquary: So all I had to do was once she left, set a timer to 14 minutes, and then I could come back. And literally, at 14:34, or 14:35, there she comes. And hit record just before that so you don’t have to wait and watch the entire time. You knew exactly when she was coming back.

Val Zavala: With all of food going into these little creatures, naturally something has to come out. And the camera happened to be rolling at that very moment. Watch again on the right. Baby hummingbirds spend only about three weeks in the nest before they begin spreading their wings.

Tom Tanquary: It’s fun watching their progress as their feathers come in, and towards the end when they became adults. They overcrowded the nest, they literally don’t fit in the nest because there’s two of them. And they’re just jammed in there, spilling out of the nest. Unfortunately we left town and while we were out of town, is when they left the nest. So we came home to an empty nest.

Val Zavala: There’s no telling if these adult birds are the chicks that hatched earlier, but if they decide to build a new nest, Tom plans to hook up his camera to a website. So anyone can watch this flying phenomena in real time. Thank you, Tom.

Tom Tanquary: You’re welcome.

Tom Tanquary is a professional videographer who has captured the unique movements and behaviors of hummingbirds using slow motion cameras and time-lapse techniques.

In this segment of "SoCal Connected," catch a glimpse of baby hummingbirds as they spend three weeks in a nest before spreading their wings and fluttering away.

Hummingbirds are able to flap their wings in intricate, figure eight patterns.They are also able to expand their wings and fly sideways, and backwards, explained Tanquary. These little guys are fed every 15 minutes or so by their mother. Talk about a fast metabolism.

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  • Tom Tanquary, professional videographer


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