trochilidine definition

Birds are fascinating. They’re marvels of the animal kingdom, capable of physical and mental acrobatics that are making us reconsider what is possible. Recent studies have illuminated them as astoundingly intelligent, and they even have language, a trait that was once thought unique to humans. I personally quite enjoy birds, whether I’m reading about them or simply observing them as I encounter them in my daily life. And while seeing any bird makes me happy — whether it’s a pigeon in a city street or an eagle soaring high above the trees — getting to see a hummingbird always feels like a special treat. Tiny, speedy, and oh-so-cute, hummingbirds have long been among my favorite avians, ranking alongside super-smart corvids, playful parrots, and wide-eyed owls. There’s really nothing not to love about them. They’re intriguing to watch — zipping full-speed through the air, then stopping on a dime to hover at a feeder, then zipping away — and to marvel at. For all their speed and energy, everything they do seems so dainty and precise. (Here’s a video of a hummingbird snoring. I rest my case.) How do they do that? How does a bird that small even exist?

The fact that there is a word to embody hummingbirds and their likeness, and all the fascination and wonder that comes with them, is almost as much of a delight as the birds themselves. Trochilidine comes from trochilidae, the family to which hummingbirds belong. Something that is “like a hummingbird” might be small, colorful, fast, delicate. But the idea of something being trochilidine brings to mind a much more specific image than just that. Hummingbirds have a certain dignity, determination, and even mystique about them, too. There’s something so charmingly enigmatic about them, able to appear and vanish like tiny nectar-drinking magicians; blink and you’ll miss them. The ease, speed, and precision with which they maneuver is a subject of interest by itself — at top speeds of over 30 miles per hour, they can change directions mid-flight and are the only known birds with the ability to fly backwards. They can even dive at speeds that reach 10 Gs of acceleration, enough to render the average human unconscious. All while maintaining the air and appearance of a real-life fairy. For something so small and light, fragile they are not. In fact, they’re shockingly hardy: despite having hearts that can beat over a thousand times per minute while awake, the oldest recorded individuals lived for over 10 years, an incredibly long lifespan for a creature so little and active. They are trochilidine, tiny and mighty.

In a way, hummingbirds are quite inspirational. They are truly undeterred by their diminutive size, living long and exciting lives in spite of it — and for that they’re worth admiring. These jewels of the bird world are well deserving of their own word for all that they represent: liveliness in demeanor, vibrancy in appearance; dainty grace paired with energy and stamina, speed paired with precision; dignity and intent in their actions, mixed in with just a hint of mysterious elegance and charm… all wrapped up in the smallest of avian packages. Maybe we should all strive to be a little more trochilidine. The circumstances we’re given in life shouldn’t stop us from enjoying the lives we have, or from living with color, spirit, and vigor. They don’t stop the hummingbirds. Maybe they don’t know the tune, but the hummingbirds still hum.

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