It was a marvel I could not expect to experience again, even were I to live several more lifetimes. A tiny hummingbird, its heart racing, the large, clear black eye staring into mine, snuggled in my hand.
The bird had exhausted itself as it frantically bumped into the ceiling and screened doors of the house after mistakenly flying in through an open doorway. I tried to help, but wasn't able to do much until the little bird dropped, exhausted, into a catch-all basket that sits high on a kitchen shelf.
I thought the bird was dead. It lay there on its side, eyes closed, feet curled and motionless amidst the miscellany of candles, bug dope and small parts that accumulate in this container. But the moment it felt the touch of my left hand, the tiny creature startled from its swoon and began to struggle.
The reddish-orange and green bird calmed as soon as I had closed my fingers around its nearly-weightless body and held it upright. The bird actually closed its eyes again, I suppose either from shock, fear or resignation. I picked up my camera and carried it and my charge to the back patio. In a matter of a minute or two, the bird had revived and began staring unblinkingly at me. I noticed a few lost feathers and a bit of white dust on its head, probably the result of bumping into the ceiling. Other than that, the tiny bird seemed OK, but I decided to hold onto it for a few more moments in order to give it time to regain strength. And to pose for a portrait.
Later I sent the photo to my blogging birder friend Bev, who helped with identification. This is a Cinnamon Hummingbird, Amazilia Rutila, one of the most common species of hummingbirds on the Yucatán Peninsula. It is the largest hummingbird native to the area. According to guidebooks, they usually are found in arid scrub, pastures and brushy forest edges. This species lives year-round in the gardens of my urban Mérida neighborhood, and is particularly attracted by the flowers of nopal cactus and yellow mandevilla in my yard.
Figuring on getting a full-length photo of my guest as it took off, I readied the camera and slowly opened my hand. I was not quick enough. Instantly the bird rocketed over the back wall, trailing behind only the sound of its voice, a rapidfire, scolding, "tsit-tsit, tsit-tsit" that persisted in the air for a moment after this tiny neighbor disappeared from view.
Read about another animal close encounter here.