Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fact And Fiction: The Making Of Myth

Rufous hummingbird (Nan Moore)

A friend told me a story recently.  This time of year the turkey vultures and rufous hummingbirds return together to the Oregon western valley and coast.  We see the familiar wheeling of vultures in the sky, where one day they appear as if summer never left; while hummers appear and feed on the early nectar plants of Spring.  

The story goes.  The vultures and hummingbirds winter in Mexico.  Its a long way to fly north for the hummers.  So the hummers get together with the vultures and hitch a ride north among the vulture wing feathers.  Safe and sound, the hummers arrive in Oregon, rested and relaxed, thanks to the soaring and migrating abilities of the vultures.  Arriving in Oregon, the vultures settle down on a fence or the ground, spread their wings, and the hummers emerge, to fly off seeking nectar.

Summer passes and nesting is completed.  The hummers get together with the vultures again and travel south tucked in among the wing feathers of the vultures, eventually arriving at the winter grounds.  The cycle of migration repeats again and again, confident in the cooperation among species.

Is this story true?  Maybe.  It certainly appeals to our sense of cooperation and makes a heart-warming myth.  Science can test the theory.  Or we can simply enjoy the glow of the image and inspire imagination.  We don't have to prove everything.  We can entertain ideas for the fun it brings, and the world is a little lighter for this.

Posted by michael

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