[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 23
1888 - 8:15 a.m.: Newhall's luxurious Southern Hotel burns to the ground [story]

Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Jul 11, 2013

evelynevandersande_mugI grew up in Paris, and while it is a beautiful city with gorgeous monuments and the best croissants ever, there is something seriously missing: hummingbirds.

You do not know how lucky you were, growing up, to be able to see hummingbirds year-around in Southern California. They are what is called a “New World bird,” as they do not exist in Europe.

Conversely, there are many birds you can see in Europe that do not exist in the United States. Many are from the passerine family. Those are the small songbirds you see at different times of the year in your backyard.

When the Pilgrims came to America, they did not know any of the birds around them, but they missed the little passerines from back home. Occasionally they would see a bird that reminded them of a bird such as the European robin, a bird that was dear to their hearts. It is a small, pretty, vivacious bird; it can be easily tamed to eat crumbs from your plate if you eat outside, and it has a melodious song. It has a cheeky attitude and is now the national bird of the United Kingdom.

European robin

European robin

The folklore surrounding it goes back thousands of years. I will spare you the lengthy legend of how it got its red breast while standing on the cross, comforting Jesus. This bird is so much a part of the culture that when the Pilgrims reached the cold shores of Massachusetts, the first red-breasted bird they saw, they called a robin, even though it was twice the size of the little bird back home.

I am not a Pilgrim, but I still remember the moment of wonder when I saw my first hummingbird. Strangely enough, it was at Disneyland, the so-called happiest place on earth. Did that sighting play a role in our decision to move to California? I am not sure, but it certainly was an important moment for me.

The most common hummingbird we see in Santa Clarita is the Anna’s hummingbird.  It is an all-year resident and is the largest hummingbird species.

They are known as hummingbirds because of the sound created by their beating wings, which sometimes sounds like bees or other insects.

Annas have a green back; the throat is a brilliant rose red, sometimes with a darker red patch in the center of the throat. They are abundant around groves of flowering eucalyptus. They are the only birds that can fly backwards.

Anna's hummingbird - the local variety.

Anna’s hummingbird – the local variety.

Hummingbirds drink nectar from inside flowers. Their beaks are usually long and straight, but in some species, the beak is slightly curved up or down, or short and thick as an adaptation to the available flowers. They also prey on small insects and spiders. They feed in many small meals each day, and they consume up to 12 times their body weight in nectar daily. You generally see them when they’re on the move, but they spend 75 percent to 80 percent of their time sitting and digesting.

When in flight, they have the highest metabolism of all animals to support the rapid beating of their wings, so that high proportion of resting time is very necessary. Otherwise they would have to eat continuously.

When the temperature gets colder, or at night, they can drop their body temperature, breathing and heartbeat and go into a sort of torpor. They conserve a lot of energy that way, and it helps them spend less time feeding.

For the longest time, ornithologists disagreed on the cause of the loud, high-pitched sound heard at the bottom of the male’s display dive. New scientific experiments have proven it comes from the outer tail feathers. How did they find out?  Simple enough: When missing the outer tail feathers, the hummingbird cannot make the sound, and if the feathers are present, they reproduce the sound.

Many species of hummingbirds can produce sounds with their wings or tails. It is always an interesting sound to hear, and often you hear the sound before you see the little bird hovering above your head.

Most hummingbirds migrate to northern Mexico for the winter, but Anna’s hummingbird does not. It is a common resident from inland California to Southern Arizona and all the way north to southwestern, coastal British Columbia.

hummer071013cSo far as we know, the male hummingbird does not take any part in nesting. He takes care of reproduction, then he is gone. The female builds a small nest using spider silk to bind the nesting material and to secure the nest to a structure. Because the silk of the spider can expand, the nest can grow bigger as the young birds inside grow.

I think it’s a fantastic idea to have a bed that grows with the size of your kids.

The female lays two white eggs. Incubation lasts from 14 to 23 days, depending on the species.

Many hummingbirds have colorful plumage with gorgeous shades.  Where does that color come from?  Not from pigmentation on the feather itself, but from prism-like cells within the top layers of the feather. You need the light to hit the bird at a certain angle, and suddenly you see those fiery reds or iridescent greens on a bird that seemed plain just a second earlier. Because they are constantly in motion, you don’t have to wait too long for the show.

Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans made from part of real hummingbirds. They were prized for producing in the wearer sexual potency, energy, vigor and skill at arms and warfare.

One of their gods was frequently depicted as a hummingbird.  One of the Nazca Lines (geoglyphs in the Nazca desert) depicts a hummingbird.

Hummingbirds are fiercely territorial and defend their own feeding ground mercilessly by attacking other hummingbirds that try to feed on “their” flowers, so it makes sense to use such a little bird as a symbol for warfare.

Old world, New World, birds from the old country, birds from America – so many interesting facts to discover.  I wish you many pleasant and satisfying hours this the summer, observing hummingbirds.  We’re lucky to have them all around us.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Tonya Waller says:

    What a wonderful article! Thank you! I moved to California from Arkansas 2 years ago, feeling a bit lonely and out of place at first. I was blessed to discover the little hummers and started planting flowers they enjoy and erecting 3 feeders. What joy they have brought me!

    Love your articles, thank you!


Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017
It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway. We are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
The Trump budget proposes decreasing funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.5 billion. Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and monuments. He plans to open BLM land to drilling and fracking.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
We are quickly approaching the culmination of the year-long celebration of our city’s 30th anniversary. It is truly a time to celebrate all the hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion that took our City from being a tiny portion of Los Angeles County to the thriving third largest city in the county.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
This month marks an exciting milestone for the premier arts and entertainment district in Santa Clarita.
Friday, Sep 29, 2017
Kaepernick has never spoken of personally experiencing any negative interactions with the police. Appearances are he had a pretty nice life provided by people with white skin while living in a country that presented him with obvious, mind-boggling opportunities.
Thursday, Sep 28, 2017
Despite its close proximity to the city of Barstow, Rainbow Basin remains virtually undiscovered. It is well worth a visit. Visitors to the area can find scenic opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1888 - 8:15 a.m.: Newhall's luxurious Southern Hotel burns to the ground [story]
Bobbi Jean and her husband Jim Bell, whose OutWest clothing store and popular TV concert series celebrated all things Western and equestrian and helped revitalize Old Town Newhall over the past decade, will soon ride east into the sunrise: They’re moving to New Mexico.
OutWest Owners Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell Ride East Into the Sunrise
1898 - Birth of Mary S. Ruiz, eldest child of Enrique & Rosaria Ruiz of San Francisquito Canyon; all died in 1928 dam disaster [cemetery census]
2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,000 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, a sexual assault suspect was arrested Thursday night. Plus, some great weekend events. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, October 20, 2017
Forever Fit SCV, a Santa Clarita sports and personal fitness training company, will host a "Pumpkin Workout" at its Centre Pointe location on Saturday, October 28, starting at 9 a.m.
Oct. 25: Pumpkin Workout Benefits American Cancer Society
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is set for Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: Hart School District Governing Board Meeting
The LA County Public Defender has won the Silver Eagle Award for its Public Defender Jail Liaison Program during the 31st Annual Productivity and Quality Awards Ceremony on Oct. 18 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
LA County Public Defender Soars with Silver Eagle Award
The Los Angeles County Health Officer has issued a heat alert as high temperatures have been forecast for the Los Angeles Basin on Monday, October 23 through Tuesday, October 24.
Heat Alert for SCV, L.A. County on Monday, Tuesday
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has received three major gifts toward the creation of the museum in Los Angeles, bringing fundraising to more than $300M, nearly 80 percent of its $388M campaign goal.
Motion Picture Museum Nears $388M Campaign Goal
Caltrans added nearly 1,200 lane miles of pavement repair and 66 bridges to its growing list of projects to be delivered sooner than planned, thanks to the imminent influx of revenue from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB 1), the transportation funding and reform package passed in April.
Nearly $3.4 Billion in Transportation Projects to Be Accelerated
The city of Santa Clarita and SCV Veterans Memorial, Inc. invite the public to attend a special ceremony unveiling the new Fallen Warriors Monument at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall on Wednesday, November 8 starting at 10 a.m.
Nov. 8: City Unveils Fallen Warriors Monument in Newhall
Crime Prevention deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station along with Los Angeles County Probation Department officers conducted probation compliance searches Friday throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
SCV Deputies Check Probationers, Aid in Domestic Violence Call
Here is the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station's public safety report for Canyon Country (West), aka Zone 7, for October 2 through October 8, 2017
Crime Blotter: Robbery, Grand Theft in Canyon Country West
A suspect has been arrested in the investigation of an alleged sexual assault, according to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station officials.
Suspect Arrested in Alleged Sexual Assault
Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States and a concern the California Highway Patrol addresses with its "Start Smart" program.
CHP Helps New Drivers with ‘Start Smart’ Classes
The California High-Speed Rail Authority punted one of the most important decisions during its monthly meeting Thursday, stoking concerns the entity is not moving quickly enough on the $64 billion project.
California’s Bullet Train Board Delays Award of Key Contract
An extensive investigation by the county of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs in conjunction with the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has resulted in a lawsuit announced today by the Attorney General against retailer Curacao.
AG Sues Retailer Curacao for Allegedly Preying on Consumers
1873 - Santa Barbara lawyers Charles Fernald and J.T. Richards purchase Rancho San Francisco for $33,000 (75 cents an acre) in a sheriff's sale [story]
CHESTERFIELD, MO — NewGround, a St. Louis-based experiential design-build firm, recently teamed up with Logix Federal Credit Union to work on a large scale facility project, a new corporate headquarters building for the full-service credit union in the Burbank, California area.
Valencia Will Soon be Home to Logix Federal Credit Union Headquarters
The CSUN women's volleyball team (10-9, 4-3 Big West) opens the second half of the Big West season this week as the Matadors head up the coast this week for road tests at No. 23 Cal Poly (17-2, 7-0 Big West) and UC Santa Barbara (4-15, 3-4 Big West). CSUN, coming off a tough five-set loss to Hawai'i at home, is 3-4 in seven road matches this season but has won two of three Big West road contests.
Matadors Volleyball Testing Their Skills on the Road
No. 5 College of the Canyons defeated L.A. Mission College 3-0 on Wednesday to earn its eighth consecutive match and fifth straight sweep. Set scores were 25-15, 25-11, and 25-20.
Cougars Volleyball Earns Fifth Straight Sweep
CSUN Women's Soccer (7-4-5, 3-1-1 BWC) looks to move up in the Big West standings this week as it hosts UC Irvine on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Matadors Get Ready for Big West Matchups
Behind Julio Rubio's goal in the 11th minute CSUN defeated UC Riverside 1-0 in Big West Conference men's soccer action Wednesday night.
Matadors’ Lone Goal Enough to Hold Off UC Riverside
Northridge, CA – CSUN Athletics officially opened its new satellite athletic training facility on Thursday at an event featuring Athletic Director Dr. Brandon Martin, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Steven Grech, student-athletes, coaches, staff and campus partners.
Matadors Student-Athletes Welcome New Training Facility
Want unique gifts and a shopping experience unlike any other?
Nov. 18-19: City’s Annual Two-Day Fine Craft Show
City officials gathered Wednesday for the Grand Opening of "Three Oaks," the first 100 percent affordable family development in Santa Clarita.
Affordable Housing Comes to Santa Clarita
The Gibbon Conservation Center will celebrate Halloween for the first time on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 28: Gibbon Conservation Center Celebrates First Halloween
California State University, Northridge is partnering with the California State University Entertainment Alliance to host a morning of workshops designed to offer students and members of the public advice on building successful careers in the entertainment industry.
Oct. 23: CSUN Workshop; Succeeding in Entertainment Industry
Spotlight Arts Center, a local non-profit that provides free performing and visual arts classes to children in the Santa Clarita Valley, will hold its Fall Festival, Sunday, Oct. 22 from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Oct. 22: Fall Festival Spotlight Arts Center
The College of the Canyons Athletics department is inviting all players, coaches and cheerleaders associated with a Santa Clarita Valley youth sports league or cheer organization to attend Saturday's Cougar football game free of charge.
Oct. 21: SCV Youth Teams Invited to Free COC Football Game
College of the Canyons freshmen Joanna Roecker and Cassandra Lee both turned in scores of 79 to lead the Cougars to a second place team finish at the Western State Conference (WSC) event hosted by Glendale College at Brookside Golf Course on Monday.
COC Falls Short at WSC Glendale
Beginning Monday, October 23, 2017, the city of Santa Clarita will increase the frequency of street sweeping throughout all areas of the City.
Oct. 23: City Begins Increased Street Sweeping Frequency
In a battle for Western State Conference, East Division supremacy, it was College of the Canyons that came out on top Tuesday night, as the Cougars scored two second half goals to secure a 2-0 win against visiting Antelope Valley College. Justine Hoeft and Jennifer Roney collected goals for the Cougars (11-2, 2-0).
COC Secures Win Against AVC With Two Second-Half Goals
The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Buckweed Fires offers Santa Clarita residents a reminder of the ever-present fire danger in Los Angeles County, as blazes ravage the northern half of the state, as well.
Officials Reflect on 10-Year Anniversary of Buckweed Fires