Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column where the word “hummer” invites intriguing comparisons.If you’ve been listening lately, you’ve probably heard the sounds of some of Summit County’s most interesting harbingers of summer. Yes, that’s right – the hummingbirds are back. Colorado is blessed with more than ten species of the tiny flyer, and several of these frequent the watering holes set up around our county to attract them.The Calliope hummingbird is North America’s smallest bird and can often be seen with it’s delicately designed neck scarf at High Country hot spots. For those unfamiliar with the ways of the hummingbird, it’s the Rufous hummingbird that often acts like the big bully – aggressively buzzing other hummers at feeders, even when he’s not hungry.
Hummingbirds, or “hummers,” as they are known in the birdwatching world, are pretty amazing. Just to go over a few hummer facts: most weigh less than a penny, they’re the only bird than can fly upside-down and hover in midair, their hearts beat up to 1360 times a minute (whew! just imagine the wear and tear on their heart-rate monitors!), they take 250 breaths every minute and most of them fly about 1500 miles twice a year during their migrations back and forth to Central America.No wonder they usually look kind of edgy.Admiring the first few intrepid hummers at our feeder on the front porch got us to thinking about the other kind of “hummer,” and then we started making comparisons.There are three species of the other Hummer found in Colorado: the H1, the H2 and the H3 – obviously not named by bird fanciers. The H1 no longer breeds and will soon be extinct. The H2 is the most common Hummer found in the High Country, but H3 numbers are increasing.
Scientists have studied the airborne hummers for centuries, but Hummer science dates back only to 1992, when Arnold Schwarzenegger convinced automakers to market the military vehicle to civilian consumers. The California governor reportedly now has eight Hummer specimens in his collection.In contrast to hummers, Hummers are BIG. The H2 is nearly 16 feet long, seven feet wide and six feet tall. It weighs 6400 pounds. Its fuel consumption, however, is similar to that of a hummer. Hummingbirds need to ingest up to eight times their body weight in fuel every day. Hummers don’t need that much, but the most generous estimate of their fuel efficiency is about 13 miles per gallon.In terms of plumage, an iridescent hummer zooming by can elicit admiration from even the most jaded nature-watcher. Hummers, on the other hand, aren’t really anything special color-wise. The H2 comes in seven different hues. We wonder about the colors called “stealth gray” and “victory red,” but we’d rather not think about it too much.
Probably the greatest contrast between hummer and Hummer is their respective prices. Hummers are basically free. They show up every year even when we don’t mix up a little sugar water for them. The other kind of Hummers are distinctly not free. The soon-to-be-extinct H1 carries a price tag of more that $125,000. The list price of the more modest H2 is only $52,000.Armed with all this knowledge, we now feel extremely grateful that the little glass apparatus with fake red plastic flowers that dangles on our deck attracts only hummers, not Hummers.***It’s Sunday folks, and we’re sitting back, trying to picture a hummer behind the wheel of a Hummer.
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