A Hummingbird’s Purple Sugar Water, a Short Fiction Writing Prompt
A 200 character fiction story based on real science.
Bob wraps an encrypted message on the tiny bird’s leg. Hummingbird trainer, he laughs at the job on his resume, but Bob is valuable. His tiny friend has just carried a message 20 miles directly to the target, eluding all tracking devices.
Science: “The researchers watched as wild broad-tailed hummingbirds came to visit, recording which feeder they flew up to first (one containing delicious sugar water or one just containing boring old water). The idea was that they would use the color of the light to identify the feeder on return visits. They couldn’t track individual birds separately, but based on some banding, they estimated the local population at 200 to 300 (depending on the year). In total, they recorded over 6,000 hummingbird visits. The tests showed that the birds could see every nonspectral color that the researchers threw at them. Color pairs that were closer together in hue resulted in more mistaken visits but still beat the 50/50 odds of the control experiments.” Experiments show hummingbirds see colors you’ve never dreamed of We see red+blue as purple, but birds can see purple+UV. (Whoa.) by Scott K. Johnson.