Finding a Fairy +

Hummingbird

Jack and Meg were out in the garden searching industriously for the fairy.

They had heard that the fairies were sometimes caught napping in the deep cups of lilies; and they had often planned to get up very early in order to capture one of the little people; but until this morning they had always overslept themselves.

As they looked into one tall lily after another and found nothing in them except the beautiful golden stamens, the children began to feel somewhat disappointed; but when they were almost ready to give up, little Meg suddenly cried out: “I’ve found him, Jack, I’ve found him; come quick!” Jack ran over to Meg, and as he looked into the lily which she was holding, he clapped his hand down over it so hard as almost to crush the flower.

“Don’t hurt him, Jack,” Meg pleaded.

“I’m not hurting him, Meg,” he answered, “I’m trying to keep him from getting away.”

“It is a fairy, Jack, isn’t it?” Meg asks.

“I don’t know exactly,” replied careful Jack. “It looks like a bird, but I never saw a bird that looked just like it; but say, what can we do with him?”

“Why take him into the house and show him to mamma.”

“But I’m afraid to take my hand up; he’s beginning to move already, and I’m afraid he might get away from me.”

“I’ll call mamma,” and Meg runs to the door and calls:

“Mamma, mamma! Do come out here in the garden!”

Mamma comes out at once, and asks:

“What’s the matter?”

“Oh, mamma, dear!” Jack and Meg began in one breath; ” we found a fairy in the lily-cup, and we are afraid to take him out, and we think he’s a bird-fairy,” says Meg, jumping about all excitedly, “and he’s all red and green and blue.

“Do help us take him out of the flower," cries Jack.

So mamma tells Jack to raise hand just a little, and she slips her hand under and takes out the treasure.

“It’s a hummingbird, dears,” mamma tells them, as she holds the little beauty up for Meg and Jack to see his glowing plumage.

“But isn’t it a fairy, mamma?” questions Meg.

Hummingbird and Nest“No, Meg, but it’s just as beautiful as a fairy,” and mamma holds the bird a little lower down for Meg to have a good look at him.

“May we keep him for our own, mamma?” Jack asks. “Meg found him, and I kept him, so he must belong to us.”

“Yes,” laughs mamma, “I think you may certainly claim him. Come into breakfast now, and we’ll go down town and buy him a cage as soon as we can.

You may be sure that Jack and Meg got through breakfast in a hurry that morning.

What a beautiful cage mamma bought to put the fairy in!

“What shall we call him?” said Jack, as he and Meg stood watching the bright bird flitting about behind gilded bars.

“Let’s call him Fairy,” answered Meg, “’cause we found him in the lily-cup, and I believe he is a bird-fairy anyway.”

Fairy soon became quite tame, so that the children would leave the door of his cage open, and as he fitted about the conservatory, sipping honey from the flowers, he was indeed as graceful and beautiful as any fairy that ever slept in a lily-cup.

This story is as sweet as the nectar hummingbirds devour! However, you shouldn’t pick up a hummingbird in non-emergency situations. This little jewel has a heart rate of between 500 and 1,200 beats per minute, and attempting to capture one could send its rate dangerously high.

The hummingbird is precious; only a few species—such as the broad-tailed and ruby-throated varieties—migrate to North American from the tropics each spring. Spotting them is difficult, since most measure only 3" or 4" long. They also flap their wings so quickly (about 50 flaps per second!) that they are difficult to see clearly. Though it might be tempting to keep one as a pet, please don’t. It would be unlawful and difficult to do as well, since this special bird has special needs.

Hummingbird and FlowerDue to their diminuitive size, these tiny treasures rapidly lose body heat. To maintain their 106-degree temperature, they must burn plenty of energy. Thus, they feast on flower nectar, tree sap, or insects every four to eight minutes! Even when they eat, they keep moving. They hover while they suck sweet nectar from bright, tubular flowers. Thus, despite eating more than its weight, teh average hummingbird maintains a weight of 1/10th of an ounce!

Just before their flights southward, however, these birds may eat so much, they actually double their weight. If you have a hummingbird feeder, please keep it out until October, to help these jeweled jets store enough fuel for their flights. To make your own formula fit for hummingbirds, mix one part sugar with four parts water. Then boil it for a couple minutes, cool it, and fill your feeder. Bon appetite and bon voyage, birdies!

This story contains the unabridged and unaltered text of and illustrations from “Finding a Fairy” from Mary’s Little Lamb and Other Stories, published in 1905 by Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; with additional text by Anne Verville and new photograph by Dan C. Rinnert. New material Copyright 2004, 2007, 2011 by Canville Communications.