Lou Jost, a biologist living in Ecuador, sends us a photo of the Green Violetear (Colibri thalassinus) along with a rescue story:
This poor hummingbird flew into my house and in its rush to escape, smacked into one of my windows and knocked itself out, landing on its face on the floor with its tongue sticking out. But its neck wasn’t broken so I tried to revive it and washed the dirt out of its eye and tongue. I set it on a stool outside, but I was sure it would die. After half an hour I approached it again, and touched it, and suddenly it took off and climbed straight up into the sky like it was shot from a catapult, eventually disappearing out of sight above me, and chattering all the way like hummers do when they are excited. It reminded me of the whale you posted some time ago, jumping for joy after it had finally been cut loose from a fisherman’s net.
This is a Green Violetear, and if you look closely you can see white flower mites on its beak, one near the nostril and another near the tip. This bird’s beak was crawling with these mites when it crashed, but they seemed to be jumping ship as the hummer went limp. These mites ride hummers and butterflies from flower to flower, as they must since flowers don’t last very long (they eat the nectar or pollen). Flower mites are so numerous they can remove half the nectar from some flowers!
The species is found on the edges of tropical montane forest; here’s its range from the Cornell Ornithology website for neotropical birds (Audubon reports that it’s also found in the eastern U.S. as a vagrant from Mexico):
I’ll add two facts to Lou’s story:
1. There are four species of “violetears,” so called because they have large violet feathers sticking out the side of their head, like ears. Here’s a photo showing one, taken from Wikipedia (you can see the “ears” appressed to the head in Lou’s photo):
2. Hummingbirds are in the order Apodiformes, meaning “Things without feet,” referring to their tiny pedal extremities. They are also the only birds that lack scales on their feet, which are covered instead with naked skin. Besides the family of hummingbirds (Trochilidae), the order contains two other families: tree swifts and swifts.
Wikipedia adds this about the order:
While apodiforms do in fact have feet, they are quite small and their legs are short and relatively weak. Many birds in this order cannot walk, and thus rarely if ever land on the ground since quick escape from predators is virtually impossible. For this reason members of this order spend a majority of their time in the air.
Apparently Lou’s bird didn’t have any trouble taking off, but note that it is gripping the edge of a hole in a plastic stool.