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A dozen species of hummingbirds fighting, feeding their young, perching, and drinking nectar.
Garden Video Review: Dances with Hummingbirds: A Musical and Interpretive Revue
March 25, 2003 by Evelyn J. Hadden
video cover

My cat and I watched this video together. The first half is a series of short films of hummingbirds set to music. It depicts about a dozen species of hummingbirds in action: fighting off other hummingbirds, nesting and feeding their young, eating, and even perching. Stunning photographic effects - backlit birds silhouetted against the sky, slow-motion flight, and extremely close shots - give viewers a good look at these spectacular creatures.

The second half replays the same series of short films, this time against a narrative soundtrack. The narrative feels rather piecemeal, interrupted every few minutes as one film ends and the next begins, but it does provide some dramatic information.

Michael Godfrey tells us that "to understand hummingbirds, we have to understand that they are birds acting like insects." They eat what insects eat, and they hover like insects do.

However, hovering is the least efficient way to fly, and hummingbirds use so much energy doing it that they need to eat every few minutes.

Their diet revolves around nectar. Flowers can be drained of their nectar but will recharge after about fifteen minutes, so hummingbirds are fiercely territorial. "Minute by minute," explains Godfrey, "their lives depend on defending their food sources."

I was hoping the narrative would be more slanted toward gardening information such as what plants hummingbirds use, and what conditions those plants need to grow. Instead, it focuses mainly on the birds' behavior and general beauty, with just a few mentions of specific plant names. There are also very few tantalizing long shots of the landscapes in which the birds were filmed.

Most of these settings are desert or tropical, which means that most of the birds stay too far south for me to expect them in my Minnesota garden. (So what would I have done with all that information about how to grow the plants in the video anyway?)

But though as a gardening aid it wasn't very effective, the video was quite enjoyable and useful for combating early spring fever, not to mention bonding with my cat, and for this I'd recommend it to anyone.

Dances With Hummingbirds
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For information about how to set up a garden that will attract birds, including hummingbirds, try George Harrison's video Garden Birds of America.
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