I have long been amazed by hummingbirds, but I’ve never been lucky enough to live in a place where they were regular visitors. Recently, though, I have been visiting central West Virginia, and the place is positively lousy with the little jewel-hued creatures! My people are so used to the birds zooming around the feeders on their back porch, they seem a little perplexed by my fascination. They may be as common as sparrows in WV, but they still feel like magical visitations to me. And I’m not the only one.
Young volcano scientist Melanie Barboni, an assistant researcher at UCLA, came from Switzerland, where hummingbirds are rare. When she started working at UCLA, she thought she’d try putting a hummingbird feeder outside the window in her office, hoping to attract the beautiful little birds. Her efforts were spectacularly successful! She gradually upgraded her feeders, attracting more and more of the gorgeous creatures. Just two years after putting up her first feeder, Barboni had more than 200 regular hummingbird visitors. She’s even given some of them names because she sees them so often! She’s gotten a name for herself, too. At UCLA, she’s now known as the Hummingbird Whisperer.
“I cannot go to a place where they are not there. This is cheesy, but I have seen them help people. They make my life happy. Having a crappy day? Who cares — there are hummingbirds around. Having a good day? Hummingbirds make it better.”– Melanie Barboni
Some of her regular hummingbird visitors are brave enough to take food from her hands and even let her hold them. Barboni’s affection for the beautiful birds is infectious. Some of her colleagues at the Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences have helped her create a Hummingbird Alley by adding feeders along the protected side of the building where her office is located.
You can read the whole heart-warming story of Melanie Barboni and her gorgeous little friends on the UCLA newsletter site.