Such Tiny Little Hummingbirds


“What are those tiny little hummingbirds I see on my butterfly bush?” a Fragments reader wanted to know a few years back.

I knew right away what she was seeing, and I think every summer since I’ve tried to snag a few images from the clearwing moths that do their hummer impersonation at our shrubs just outside my window.

This one was caught in a flurry of flapping and feeding. They never cease to amaze me–how they coordinate complex hovering flight with a brain the size of the dot at the end of this sentence.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. We were visiting friends in Rocky Mount a couple of years back and saw one of these impersonators in action. We were entranced, thinking that we were actually watching a baby hummingbird (having never actually seen a baby one, only the full grown variety). It took us almost half an hour of watching to finally determine it was a moth after all. Amazing critter.

  2. Been living in Tennessee for 3 years and have lots of hummingbirds. Thought I was seeing things when I spotted this critter. Great picture. Glad to know I’m not crazy.