Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/291

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277
THE HUMMING-BIRDS.

to prejudice in any way the discussion of the co-education of the sexes. I think society is not prepared to discuss that question now. It is being worked out in the best possible manner, that of actual experiment. But, my aim has been to fix, if possible, the actual value of the puberic age of woman as a crisis, so that there may be no fictitious bar to her progress to either a higher education, or to her training for any of the skilled labors suited to her strength.

 

THE HUMMING-BIRDS.
By JAMES H. PARTRIDGE.

THE discovery of America opened up to the civilized world many new objects of interest in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. Not the least in interest was the discovery of an extensive group of birds, consisting of several hundred species, whose diminutive size, quickness of motion, boldness of demeanor, elegance of form, and exquisite beauty of plumage, attracted the attention and secured the admiration of every lover of Nature.

The larger portion of these birds live in the West Indies and the tropical regions of America. Some occupy only a small island or district; others, a narrow belt on the side of a mountain: most do not extend their limits beyond a few degrees of latitude, while a few are migratory, and spend the summer in the temperate zone, but return to the tropical regions for the winter. Their food consists of honey and insects; and, consequently, they must live where flowers grow and insects abound. The Indians gave to these interesting little creatures fanciful names that expressed the idea of sunbeams, sun-angels, sun-gems, tresses of the day-star, murmuring-birds, and the like. And naturalists have given to them names equally fanciful, expressing the same or similar ideas, such as brilliant birds, light-bearers, sun-seekers, flower-kissers, honey-suckers, living meteors, and many others of similar meaning. They derive their common name from the buzzing or humming sound which they make with their wings. These vibrate so quickly as to be visible only as a semicircular film on each side of the body. The sound made by different species varies with the velocity of their wings. That made by the vervain humming-bird resembles the sound of a large bee; while that made by the polytmus resembles the sound of a swiftly-revolving wheel.

One of the peculiarities which first strikes a stranger, upon seeing one of these brilliant breathing gems, is the immense power of wing, shown by the quickness of his flight, also by the ease with which he balances himself in the air, whether, foraging unmolested, he is feeding at the flowers, or, attracted by curiosity, he is surveying one's