I can’t believe I finally got a photo of a hummingbird’s forked tongue! I have never captured the fork at the end of the tongue because it typically springs open once a hummer inserts her tongue in a flower. But here it is, for us to see!

We have somewhere around 70 or more hummers at The Holler now, so we are getting lots of very bright color. Hummers flash their colors at will, sometimes as warnings when sparring. This guy was caught at dusk, flashing away to keep intruders at bay.

Once a year, at peak swarm, I feed the hummers by hand. I only do it once, for about an hour because I don’t want the hummers to become tame, thinking all humans can be trusted, because unfortunately, as we all know, some humans should not be trusted.
By the way, the white dust you see on this hummer’s beak is pollen.

I saw this photo that went viral awhile ago, where a woman was photographed, with a hummingbird drinking nectar out of her mouth. People loved it, but it bothered me. Did the photographer consider how tiny and wild hummingbirds are? Did he consider how easily this woman’s viral and bacterial load could kill hummingbirds? Did they think about how taming a wild hummingbird, for a photo, through nectar offering, and then withholding, might lead a migrating hummingbird to harm at the hands of humans?

Garden nectar feeder stations have brought seriously declining hummingbird populations back to healthy numbers. Handled responsibly, garden feeders are important for hummingbird population survival. But taming wild birds that migrate, to perform tricks, isn’t helping hummingbird survival.

Taking these photos is very difficult. I have a tripod, but don’t ever use it. Why have a stationary camera in a moving world? Wild animals don’t find this interesting. So, I hold the feeder with my left hand and take the photo with my right. After about 10 minutes this starts to hurt!

Thankfully my son volunteered to hold the feeder.

The Holler hummers do know us and have learned to trust us, many of them were born here. As mentioned a few stay year round and others return annually. Wherever they stay when they migrate south for the winter, they survive and thrive. Maybe they hang out in a garden in Central America where a bird lover keeps their feeders going and the hummers happy!

Cheers to you from the incredible, wild, and much-loved, Holler Hummers~

380 thoughts on “Hummingbirds~

  1. I wish my phone took photos that beautiful! We have so many hummers around this year that I wonder where they were last year. I keep three feeders so there’s plenty of nectar to go around. It’s fun to watch one alight then fly away when dive-bombed by another πŸ™‚

  2. 70 or more hummingbirds around?! How lucky you are! And you also sometimes feed them by hand! Do they that easily come close? Maybe I can try that some time with ours. We have 4 or 5 only, but we do enjoy them.
    Thanks for sharing the pictures,

    1. Some birds will not hand feed, but others come immediately to your hand and these are often the same birds that stay here year round. You can certainly try with 4-5 birds, but your chances are much better when the numbers are greater.

  3. Amazing pictures Cindy! I had no idea birds could have forked tongues, especially a hummingbird but if you think about it, it does make sense for them. I also love how close the hummingbirds go t to you (or the hand holding the bottle in the picture). The bird was very trusting of you so you must been working to get it to come closer for a while. Amazing!

  4. You’ve just made my day, Cindy! I love hummingbirds! My cubicle at work is covered with photos I’ve taken. Of course, they’re not as amazing as yours. Right now, our back yard is full of hummies and I love it!

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed this post, Cindy!! I, for the very first time this year, saw my first hummingbird in person!! I was so excited…whooohooo πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ They are such incredible little creatures…love them…love your post!! Hope all is super in your world <3

    1. How exciting to see one for the first time and I am glad it left such a big impression on you. That is what hummingbirds are, tiny creatures with a big impact! πŸ•ŠοΈ

  6. I agree with you…we have no right to play with their natural instincts. Better let than do what they do best – enjoy themselves at their own will!

    You’ve captured some stunning shots, thanks to your son too!

  7. I love your hummingbird photos. I think people don’t realize how “bacterial” we are. When diving in the ocean we always took care not to touch anything including the corals, turtles, and sharks because our fingers are so icky. The best thing about wild animals is the “wild.” πŸ™‚

  8. Unless your camera was on a tripod and you carefully positioned yourself, I think you had to hold the nectar in one hand and the camera carefully and steadily in the other while you took the picture?

  9. Amazing and stunning pictures Cindy! These birds do not come to our shores and it is so lovely to see them and to hear they are thriving. I am totally with you on responsible behaviour and thankfully most people will always consider this πŸ’œ

    1. It always is fun doing this. The hummers swarm around my face so closely, I don’t move my head. The fanning of their wings creates a breeze that cools my face in the hot summer sun~

  10. Your shots are stunning, Cindy! I didn’t even know that they have a long forked tongue. My population is small, but I love watching them and trying to catch them with my camera.

  11. White woman speak about forked tongue.
    Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away. -Seals & Croft
    ‘..some humans should not be trusted’? OMG. Who knew?!

    1. I use a sony hx400 for all bird photos. It has an adjustable 1200mm equivalent lens. I never use a tripod, even for full zoom shots. I like to move with the camera. I also notice that wild animals are fascinated by me moving with a camera permanently stuck to my face, so I get a lot of shots of animals looking directly in the camera. For these shots I had to hold the feeders for the birds and the camera in different hands which is tricky and hard to do.

  12. Amazing shot of the forked tongue – well done, that is an achievement! And you are as tender to your birds as you are to your blogging followers; thank you! We are all envious of your hummer numbers; just one or two will make the day for us!

    1. You are very kind. I am up at a cabin in the mountains now and their five hummers on a feeder out the window! It makes me feel at home. Be well my friend and thank you for your lovely comments~

  13. That is unbelievable, feed them with your hand, and one hand hold the camera… Awesome captures. Thank you sooo much for sharing with us, Cindy!

  14. Great photos, thank you for sharing! I don’t have feeders, just plants in the yard, but I see quite a bit of action. They are amazing, territorial and fearless. I love watching them.

  15. Fantastic shots Cindy! These adorable little birds make me ooo & aww every time you post them. Congratulations on getting that first forked tongue shot! Sending big love vibes out through the universe to the Holler Hummers! πŸ˜€

  16. Cindy, these are gorgeous shots of such beautiful creatures! I stopped putting out a hummingbird feeder in my area, because it gets so incredibly hot here, that I couldn’t keep up with how often the water needs changing, and I couldn’t keep it clean enough.

    1. Yes, in hot weather the feeders should be glass and rinsed with boiling water. When you have a large population of birds they empty the feeders daily so you don’t have to worry as much. But in hot weather, nectar can’t be left in the feeder or it will grow mold which could harm hummers, so your flowers sound best for the birds.

  17. What marvels they are! I love watching them come to the feeder! Your photos are fabulous – I had never seen the forked tongue before either. We do leave them alone, although they like to ‘buzz’ us.

  18. Hey Cindy,

    How are you? Hoping all is well in the Holler πŸ™‚

    Outstanding captures of these exquisite little birds and all testament to your patience and perseverance. The opening photograph on its own is an image to captivate. My favourite is the third image…perhaps because it also delineates scale, offers superb portrayal of delicacy and strength and foregrounds the outstanding precision and control Hummers have in their flight to feed. It is breath-taking/ Breath-taking also to consider the mechanics at work, Hummers fascinate me I the same way as Bees. It is the perceived impossibility in their magical ability that prevails as a wonder. Thank you Cindy, blown away as always πŸ™‚

    Namaste πŸ™‚


    ~ Holler Hummers ~ By ~ DN

    Izzy whizzy wings busy busy
    Busy with dizzy holler and dash
    Busy with fizzy feathers so pretty
    Pretty with sunlight and flash
    Pretty and bright flitting in flight
    Flitting with wild verve and splash
    A splash with brash a slash with thrash
    But always a Hummingbird to thee.
    A gift for thee oh sweet pollen fantasy,
    On tiny wings burning hot with fire
    Burning with yearning near giddy with turning
    Turning and twisting with desire.
    Desire for the wire upon which to perch
    Perch and search with tongue extended
    Extended fork ended distended intended
    To sip and sup from the nectar cup:
    To drink from thy Feeders of Love.

    I like the little guy at the end…his emerald a flash cutting dash at the wingtip end of your post πŸ˜‰

    Namaste πŸ™‚


  19. Wow!!! These are awesome shots. Not only from you are able to get the birds to trust you to feed off your hand and your ability to capture such events with one hand. Amazing!

  20. WOW, WOW, WOW. That photo of the forked tongue is amazing, Cindy! What a wonderful blog! What kind of camera do you use that you can hold a feeder in one hand and photograph with the other? Thanks so much for sharing this.

  21. Always love seeing your hummingbirds, Cindy. The forked tongue is definitely a prized photo. Interesting how close they will come to feed on the nectar. <3

    1. Pretty horrific isn’t it. Anything for a photo is a no go for me. I don’t like invasive street photos that impinge on people’s right to privacy either. Photographers need to have ethics.

  22. Oh Cindy, I’ve such a soft spot for the wee darlings and nobody can photograph them like you. Your appreciation seeps into your photos. Before moving here, in Sacramento, I had a garden full of lavender. Needless to say, I had a garden of Humming birds. I also had a woodpecker who was in love with the old telephone poll on the corner in front of my house. πŸ™‚ Beautiful post. As for the woman who had the poor birds feed from her mouth, you are so right, she is only trying to impress others with no concern for the lovely hummings.

    1. I wish I could get our woodpeckers to come closer, but they remain elusive. I get shots of them rarely, so they have become my holy grail. Enjoy your August in gorgeous France dear Lea!

  23. Amazing photos. That’s cool that you captured the “forked tongue.” By the way, I used your method of homemade nectar (one part sugar, four parts water, red food coloring) and it worked. We’re starting to get a lot of hummers in our backyard now. Thanks!

  24. What a pity we don’t have them here… they are so lovely! But you are quite right that they should not be made to trust humans… and certainly not tamed for the sake of some tricks… ! Before you know it, they will end up in cages to be shown to friends and neighbours – just to name one of the dangers… :-/

  25. Thanks for sharing your beautiful hummingbird photos and wise warnings about how we treat them. Too often people try to tame wild creatures or turn them into parlor tricks. Thanks for caring enough to let them be.

  26. Cindy, your photos are worthy of National Geographic!! The detail on these tiny birds is amazing, and I so agree with your stand on protecting them from becoming trained monkeys!

  27. How beautiful Cindy and that shot of the forked tongue is one in a million moment.. I agree with you about feeding the humming bird from that woman’s mouth.. not hygienic for her or the bird. Such incredible creatures and to have them on your doorstep must be incredible. I have put in the blogger daily and copyrighted the image for you.. I hope that is okay. hugs xxβ™₯

  28. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday 16th August 2017 – Dan Alatorre, Angie Quantrell, Maverick on the Move and Cindy Knoke | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  29. Wow! I love hummingbirds and so appreciated seeing their upclose beauty. I can’t even believe you got the closeup of the forked tongue! Thanks for the beauty. <3

  30. Pingback: These truly amazing photographs are from the blog of: Cindy Knoke | Rethinking Life

  31. Cindy, this is one of the best photography posts I have ever seen as I love hummingbirds! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your amazing photos and for all the unseen hard effort you and your son put forth to bring these amazing photographs to your blog! xoxo

  32. Cindy, what extraordinary photos. Congratulations on the forked tongue shot. Thanks, too, for educating people. It must be really something having one so close at hand. Ours know us too, and will sometimes buzz us to let us know the feeders are low. We have seven feeders going in the summer along with what we grow. Your photos, today and always, are simply amazing.

      1. It’s almost a compliment, isn’t it? I know you’re hear taking care of me. I just want you to know that the feeder is low. By the way, I enjoyed four different hummers at the water fountain today. They love taking a shower in the bubbler.

  33. Incredible, Cindy. I learned a lot I never knew – including the fact that hummers had forked tongues. Thanks!
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

  34. They are beautiful! I would love to feed hummingbirds, but I have two cats who are excellent hunters. I don’t want to cause a decline in the bird population. I will just have to enjoy your photos!

    1. Hummingbirds and cats are not a happy mix, so thank you for your caution. I only have to worry during the short preying mantis season which should soon be on us. I have to relocate the mantis from around the feeders during season.

  35. Bravo, Cindy. Absolutely magnificent! We have a few who now show up at our two humble little feeders. They are fascinating to watch. Sometimes when we’re out on the porch, they’ll buzz past our head. I never before realized how loud they are and how much like a drone they sound! Scared me the first time one buzzed by my head! πŸ˜€

  36. Cindy how did you know humming birds were my favorite above all. Great photos. You must live in migration path or keep the juice flowing all the time.
    Did you get the extra comments sent with videos of James Arthur? I picked special ones for you.

    1. I didn’t get the videos. I will look for them in spam. I wonder if he is the person who has hundreds of hummers and never leaves his house for any length of time during season to keep all the feeders going! Is that is who you are talking about, it is truly amazing!

      1. I know how far down he was, drug addict, alcoholic, depressed and very angry at everything. Nor releasing a LP would kill some people’s career. He is bigger than he evert dreamed, he very honest in his interviews. I’m so disappointed you didn’t receive. I picked what I think are his best & sexiest video. It’s important for you to get my Montaigne. I’ll find you’re email and recreate a big drink of James Authur!
        Have a great weekend.

  37. Wow! I’d never even know that hummers had a forked tongue! I know most in government do. πŸ˜€ Seriously, thanks Cindy, for that cool pic. You’re a hummer whisperer! (PR)

  38. What a stunning series of images, Cindy. Their wings flap so quickly I’m amazed you managed to hold the camera steady with one hand and get such superb sharp focus. I’ve used one hand to photograph something stationery like a flower (shielding bright sunlight with the other hand), but never a bird moving.
    Well done πŸ™‚

  39. Wow, Cindy! I am impressed with all your different hummingbird photos. You are a truly gifted photographer as well as a “hummer whisperer.” So sweet how they trust the fingers of the one holding the bottle top full of food or fruit bits. πŸ•Š xo πŸ’ž

  40. PS Thanks for your great message! Protecting the our wildlife from ourselves.
    The “white nose syndrome” is afflicting bats in the Kentucky caves. It is believed to have been from a purse or backpack. Many caves have sections closed off to the public due to bacteria we carry in or on us! Thank you and although bats aren’t as cute as hummers, they bless the areas they forage in by keeping bugs at bay. I think they are cute tho’ ! xo πŸ’ 😊

    1. I hadn’t heard of this bat problem, so thank you for letting me know. We do need to be sensitive to the damage our viral and bacterial loads can pose to wild creatures~

  41. Congrats on capturing the forked tongue!  I had heard about it somewhere but had never seen a photo of it.  The whole series is spectacular, and I appreciate the thoughtful remarks about endangering wild critters by taming them for photo ops.

  42. Enjoyed this post, Cindy, so much. That’s an incredible number of hummingbirds to The Holler, congratulations. That translates to so much nectar making and feeder maintenance, keeping the ants and bees out of the nectar, and ducking from their aerials while filling the feeders. I have seen the forked tongue exposed in air, but to get a photograph of it is astounding. And BTW, that little bitty feeder is adorable, I have never seen one. Thanks for sharing this once-a-year tradition.

  43. My parents delight in hummingbirds, as do I!! Sometimes when I’m on their back deck, the hummingbirds come up to the plants right by us. Your photos here are incredible, Cindy <3

  44. These pictures were amazing, I fetched the family out so we all got a look.
    I agree we do have to be so careful, in this cruel world even acts of kindness can have negative consequences. I really admire what you are doing.

  45. These are some of the best hummingbird photos I have viewed. In some you almost froze the motion of their wings, and I know that’s very hard to do even under the best light.

  46. It is amazing that you were able to catch the hummer’s tongue! Your photos are fabulous, as always. We were visiting our neighbors last night and remarked at how many more hummingbirds we see each year. They have a feeder, and though I have one, I haven’t put it out because of the huge numbers of flowers I have in my garden. We have several hummers at a time in my garden at any one time. We were also talking about feeding them by hand. Neither of us have done that yet.

    1. Yes, hummingbird populations appear to have increased this year in California, due I would imagine to the ending of the drought. Hummingbirds survive mostly on gnats and fruit flies, augmented by nectar from flowers. Flowers draw them, but bugs sustain them!

  47. Thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos of the incredibly beautiful hummers. And I can imagine your delight to have managed to get one of the forked tongue. Wonderful.

  48. Wonderful photographs! I’ve never seen hummingbirds humming (or is it hovering. . .). Mostly they are zipping here and there, back and forth .They are definitely another of nature’s lovely mysteries!

  49. I had two feeders and a beautiful swarm for about two days until one Ruby Throated Hummer ran them all away. I read that adding more feeders or moving one of the feeders would help but I apparently didn’t move them far enough away because he was able to terrorize both of them. So I took them down in hopes that he will move to greener pastures. I know they spar and I understand. As long as they are sparing equally I don’t have a problem. But when one can run everyone away, I just do not think that is fair. I wish I could speak hummingbird for just long enough to tell them there is plenty for everyone, and I will bring more.

    1. Yes, this happens sometimes, and it is very frustrating to watch, so I empathize with you completely. And the dominant bird will dominant another feeder, as you mention, if placed in visual contact of the existing feeder. However, he can’t keep this up forever because it becomes too exhausting, leaves too little time for him to eat or mate, and expends too much energy. A sufficient numbers of challengers will eventually overwhelm him, however you can stop the process more quickly by doing a few things. Move the existing feeder to a difficult to dominate place, like hanging it from a branch among the scrub of a very large bush. This is harder to dominate because it is more difficult to see. Have this feeder plain glass, no red dye or red glass. Next hang a second feeder on another area of your garden, out of the visual field of the dominant bird and far enough away that the bird cannot possibly dominate both feeders. Fill this temporarily with red dye nectar or a red glass container to attract the rejected birds. Eventually you should have two feeders going and his dominance of your garden will be over and he will give up. You have already removed the contested feeder for awhile which is actually the first thing you can do. He will hang around waiting for it to return for awhile and then give up. At this point hang the two feeders as described. It may help for you to know he dominates the location where the feeder is placed and all his strategy centers on this. So stopping this location dominance is your first tool. There is an interesting book you may want to read titled, “The Fastest Thing on Wings,” about hummingbirds written by a hummingbird rescuer. The author describes in good detail how a very small percentage of hummingbirds are just bullies and terrorize other birds. In this way they are similar, unfortunately, to humans.

      1. I used to have aquariums. I used to say that the prettier the fish was the bigger a***hole he would be. Just like hummingbirds and many people. Thanks for the suggestions. Have a blessed day.

  50. Alberto Mrteh

    Your pictures are beautiful.
    They show very well your love for these animals.
    Alberto Mrteh (El zoco del escriba)

  51. Pingback: Hummingbirds~ | Donkey Whisperer Farm Blog

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