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Desert Diary
Birds/Hummingbird color


Have you ever noticed how a hummingbird's feathers glisten and change color in the sun? These colors are so iridescent they hardly seem real! Although we understand the colors by studying how the feathers are made, I like the magical story woven by the Acoma Indians.

According to the legend, the volcano demon lost a gambling match with the children of the Sun, and he was blinded. In his rage, he stirred up the earth's lava, making it flow north and west. Many birds attempted to put out the raging fires, but they failed and were badly burned. When the hummingbird made his attempt, he flew around the great waters in the north, south, east, and west, stirring them up and putting out the flames. During his flight, he flew through a rainbow, the colors of which he continues to wear to this day. Look for this gift of the rainbow the next time you see a hummingbird.

pen and ink


Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Scott M. Cutler, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

photo of Rufus Hummingird

Rufus Hummingbird. Photograph by Lloyd G. Ingles. © California Academy of Sciences, 1999.



Tyler, Hamilton A. 1979. Pueblo Birds and Myths. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 308 pp.

Web Resources

Mexico and hummingbirds