Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Hummingbird

sonoran desert museum hummingbird feb 2017 tucson
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.


Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Wednesday, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2018.

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14 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Hummingbird”

  1. “Look’t, a hummin’bird,” Joel said, pointing to an ocotillo bush at the edge of camp.

    “Indigenous to the Sonoran Desert, which is where we are, so don’t be surprised, amigo. Costa’s Hummingbird, named by a French naturalist after a friend.”

    “Amazin’ how you make even amigo sound all Frenchy, Jacques–if that’s your real name,” Joel said. The only response was only a cold-eyed stare.

    They sat beneath camouflage netting, colored in the desert mauves, the sky a pale blue, waves of heat rippling the horizon.

    “A true anarchist claims no country as his own. Now ready the Stinger. That is your specialty, no? The plane is due to fly over soon, if we are lucky and Air Force 1 is not.”

    “God’s own wrath an’ hellfire.”

    “I would say only our choice and skill, nothing more, nothing divine . . . amigo.”

    Five hundred miles north, an Air Force tech said, “Humbug’s image is crystal clear, Major, and the sound’s strong without distortion.”

    “Yeah, we got it all–more than enough.” The major spoke into a field phone. “You received the clip? And what are your orders?”

    The major hung up and said to his team, “We have authorization. Arm the drone and destroy the target.”

    “Yessir, armed, targeted, and on final approach,” responded another techie staring at a computer screen, her right hand controlling a joystick.

    “And get Humbug outta the blast zone, Sergeant,” the major said to the first tech. “No need to waste good equipment.”

  2. All my smart-ass friends call me Cyrano because of my long beak. Well, that’s okay by me. But, I’m really getting sick and tired of always coming in second or third in our yearly humming contests.

    Last year I did my mimic of old blue-eyes “Fly Me to the Moon,” but I didn’t play among the stars in the voting. The winner that year was quite a chick. I knew she was going to win the minute she belted out “There’s No Business Like Show Business” like Ethel Merman on opening night. Her hums made the trees tremble. She really brought down the house. What a night. What a win. What a dish!

    Here it is, the night of this year’s contest. We’re waiting for our cue to give our all. She’s clutching that little branch with all her might, and fluttering her gorgeous eyes at me. I’ll just expand the magnificence of my glorious chest and set her heart aflutter. Maybe that will throw her off-track and she’ll goof up her solo. I had practiced all year long to floor them with my hummingbird hums of Rossini’s “March of the Swiss Soldiers,” the Lone Ranger’s theme song.

    My cue came before hers. I brushed against her soft wing. “Hi, big guy,” she chirped, then leaned toward my ear and hummed such excitingly wild suggestions that my throat locked and I couldn’t hum a hum.

    The little wench had planned it all along. Of course, she won again.

  3. Horatio sat primly, quietly running lines in his head. He hadn’t wanted a part this much in a very long time. He’d grown up in the theatre, greasepaint and spirit gum in his bones. His mother had trod the boards, on and off Broadway. His father was an accomplished choreographer. He’d had other talented family take him under their wings over the years.

    Hitchcock had taken a liking to his great grandmother, giving her a bit part in his classic from 1963 and his dad had taken him a few times onto the set of ‘Iron Eagle.’ Lou Gossett, Jr was a hoot. The last part he’d yearned for was a dark biopic several years ago. In hindsight, he knew he was wrong for it but at least he’d gotten to read with John Cusack. Critics hadn’t been kind to the Poe movie.

    “Next! shouted the assistant director and Horatio fluttered, landing gracefully center stage. A moment to comport himself before he began his rehearsed soliloquy,

    “…They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to…”

    “Hold up there a moment,” the director called out. “We’ve decided to take it in a slightly different direction. Now it’s a musical.”

    “…Mockingbird, the Musical! The assistant director smiled, nodding, “sing this,” whispering a song title.

    “But I don’t know all the words to ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’!

    “No worries, sweetie, just hum it.”

  4. Hummingbird

    Looking about
    I see no blooms
    The branches that abound reveal deep foliage
    Harkening another age
    When the earth was younger
    This is not my home.

    Fear grips as I clutch tightly
    On this hidden spoke
    Of an unfamiliar tree
    My purple coat stands out
    In this sea of green
    What has become of me?

    Yearning to flex my wings
    I shudder at the thought
    That this windless expanse
    Will carry me naught
    While inside I burst with hope
    The promise to explore.

    Where; what; how
    My fate uncertain
    A deep loneliness envelops
    While peeling back the curtain
    Of doubt and despair
    I take the chance; taking flight.

    Seeking truth
    I venture
    Closer at first, tree after tree
    Courage rising
    Then, a meadow greets me
    Dots of red, blue, and gold.

    Cloaked by the mantle of grasses wild
    Keeping wary and close to ground
    I sample first the red
    Then blue; then gold.
    Varying sweetnesses and scents
    Reaching deep into my soul.

    I flap quicker and harder
    With each delightful encounter
    I am made stronger in resolve
    That the newness, the strangeness, the distance
    Will hinder me not.
    Fear and doubt lift.

    Further I go
    Resplendent: purple glowing
    Open to new flocks appearing
    Keeping to what I do best
    Quick movements; fluttering a-blur
    Always surging forward.

    Recalling the safety of the forest, the steady branch,
    Knowing the way back.
    Now the field awaits.
    Well-adapted to my new home
    I keep my view expansive
    And steady my fate.

  5. Gossamer wings on perfumed air,
    A pause to taste of nectar sweet.
    With steady cadence, feathers fair,
    To keep a wild tympanic beat.

    And happiest of oscine songs,
    The melody of chirps and squeaks.
    Amidst their color bedecked throngs,
    An issuance from smallest beaks.

    With iridescent crown atop,
    A plumage radiant in the sun.
    Tongue poised to drink each tiny drop,
    Sweetest repast when once begun.

    So, dare not blink if ‘ere you spy
    This most diminutive in flight.
    A rapid flutter in the sky,
    In stillness rare when once alight.

  6. “Claire, your package arrived!” Lyle called, setting the box in the living room. “The way you talk about your grandmother’s priceless artwork, I thought it would arrive in an armored car.” He watched her carefully open the box.

    “Funny. My grandmother was a great artist when she was younger. Unfortunately, little of her earlier work survived that terrible fire that swept through the area she was living. She didn’t paint again until much later in her life and kept it private. No one’s seen this.” She opened the lid, “Did you see how jealous my sister was when we heard this was left to me? She inherited the jewelry, but I was given essentially her life’s work.”

    “It was hard to miss. She slammed the door on her way out.”

    “We’ll keep some, but look into selling the rest. The art world is going to go wild. My grandmother had the gift of a painter’s hands.” Claire lifted up one canvas, “Look! This one of a hummingbird is absolutely amazing. The purple is so vibrant.”

    Lyle held the painting up close. “Do you see all the faint lines? See that spot on the branch where the brushstrokes are too thin.”

    Claire frowned, taking it from him. “What are you saying?”

    “It looks like it came from a paint-by-number kit.”

    She rummaged through the box becoming clearly disappointed. “They all are. Some aren’t even finished. What should I do?”

    He shrugged, “Maybe your sister would like one or two or three.”

  7. I love to watch the beautiful hummingbirds as they flit around my feeder and rest in my lilac bush. I realize they are just robots, created to replace the living birds we carelessly eradicated. Still, their iridescent colors glisten in the sunlight.

    I don’t even have to refill my feeder like in the olden days. All these birds need is a red container to elicit their perch and feed response. They seem so real.

    Today I sit on my deck with my cat, Jaxon, enjoying their antics. I am trying to photograph one bird with a violet breast. It seems a bit less energetic than the rest. At the feeder it dips its beak for just a moment, then flies away to the lilac. Perhaps its solar recharger is malfunctioning.

    Jaxon begins stalking the perched birds. In the past she has been quick enough to nab one now and then. But she would spit and shake her head in disgust when she bit down on the plastic replica.

    Several birds fly away at her approach. But the violet breasted one remains still. I look through my telephoto lens as Jaxon leaps and snatches the bird from the branch.

    Instead of flying plastic shards, I see feathers, and hear a sound like cracking bones. Suddenly, I realize there had been one living hummingbird left in the world after all.

  8. “Are you seeing this?” the engineer asked. “The same thing happens every time our hummingbird gets close enough to record voices. The subject invariably experiences the quick intake of breath, then the long moment of frozen silence, the slack jaw, the vacuous smile…. It is always the same.”

    “The observer is experiencing wonder,” the psychiatrist explained. “A completely unscientific and human reaction to extreme beauty.”

    “And therein lies the problem,” said the commander. “We do not want our enemies to sit slack-jawed with vacuous smiles on their idiot faces. We want them to continue talking, to reveal their deepest secrets with no thought that tiny ears may be listening and recording.”

    “Why not use a different type of bird?” suggested the psychiatrist.

    “We modeled one after a pigeon. Unsuccessful. All it did was attract more pigeons, all cooing and bustling around and ruining reception.”

    “How about a crow? Those are common enough.”

    “We tried that. Even used real crow feathers. Unfortunately, its trial run happened during the mating season and it became involved in a possible romantic triangle, with unforeseen tragic results.”

    “I am sure you will come up with something,” said the commander. The three men all shook hands, then the commander and the psychiatrist left the engineer to ponder his problem alone.

    The engineer wanted to give up on surveillance birds altogether. Why not go back to using bugs? Then he had an idea. Why not a surveillance device disguised as a bumblebee?

  9. Camera Love

    Willie was one lucky hummingbird. He felt carefree and alive.

    “Why are you so happy?” asked Willie’s friend, Bugs.

    “I think I’m in love.”

    “Who’s the lucky bird?”

    “It’s a Surveillance Camera.”

    “Never heard of it,” said Bugs. “Must be new in our area.”

    “That’s what I was thinking.”

    “How long have you two been seeing each other?” he asked.

    “Not long.”

    “Have you taken her to dinner yet?”

    “Not yet. I think she’s on a diet. She never eats anything I give her.”

    “Probably watching her figure.”

    “Could be,” said Willie. “But I’m worried my honey bun might make herself sick if she doesn’t eat enough.”

    “Don’t worry. Women are smarter than you think. They always surprise me.”

    “You could be right.”

    “Sure I am.”

    “I must say,” said Willie, with pride. “The Surveillance Camera is a very dependable bird.”

    “What makes you say that?”

    “She’s always in the same spot, watching over the other birds.”

    “Like a mother hen.”

    “And I can tell she doesn’t play around.”

    “How so?”

    “Whenever the other birds are around, she always turns to look at me.”

    “She’s into you, I can tell.”

    “And when I’m close to her, she makes the sweetest whirring sound.”

    “Yup. Definitely sounds like love.”

  10. “Yeah, I’m bad. I’m the baddest bird around.”

    Herbert sat on the tree branch, visualizing the screaming crowds of young chicks filling the stadium, the jumbo trons in the background. He perfected his rock-star persona, assuming “the position.”

    “Her-BERT!”

    The wife. He sighed. Now what does she want?

    “Have you scouted new locations—”

    “I have scouted locations! The filming with be wonderful!”

    “Not for filming. Scouting locations of feeders! We need food! Our last supplier moved two days ago—where are we going to eat?”

    Herbert sighed. He missed that couple—not only did they feed him and his family they played the most amazing music. They even nicknamed him Prince because of his purple feathers. Herbert caught himself before he shouted back, “My agent will find us food. Just chill, woman.”

    She didn’t understand. He was a rock star.

    “I’m taking the kids and flying home to mother. You coming with?”

    “In a sec.”

    “I wish you’d give up this fantasy. You will never be a rock star. You can’t sing. You’re a hummingbird.”

    “Well, this bird knows the words, so there.”

  11. “Mom! Look!”

    Adrian couldn’t believe his luck. His mom had decided to homeschool him this year and allow his love of hummingbirds to feed their year of learning together. Who builds a curriculum on hummingbirds? His mom had convinced him she could. No child of hers was going to suffer bullying. She would make sure of that. It had been a long elementary school road, but Adrian was now in middle school. New hormones and interests for a child managing his life on the ‘spectrum’.

    “What is it, son?”

    “It looks like a hummingbird, mom. I’ve never seen one with a purple head.”

    “Oh, indeed it is, Adrian. We should get out our book and see if we can find a picture like it.”
    Adrian and his mother walked over to the table. His excitement shown through.

    “OK, Adrian. Let’s see here.”
    Adrian turned the pages of their hummingbird guide meticulously. He observed each bird looking at every detail.

    “I know it won’t be hard to find a bird with beautiful purple plumage like that, mom. It reminds me of grandma’s favorite flower—the African violet. She would have liked this.”

    Adrian’s mom loved how he often found ways to reference his father’s mother. Hers was his only living one now and she often wondered how long he would remember. Sometimes Adrian’s memories seemed long while at other times short or completely faded. Parenting Adrian gave great joy and offered great mystery. Just like that hummingbird, Adrian was unique!

  12. Won Cho Lee gazed out of his cell at the prison. The midday sun brightened the courtyard, and birds were singing, unseen, despite the sterile surroundings. A few plants stubbornly found their way up through the ground, cracking the concrete in their persistent struggle to survive.

    His 6 x 8 solitary cell was foul smelling, with a bucket used for a toilet in the corner. He guessed he was there for preaching his faith, albeit quietly, in the oppressive regime he lived under. No one ever explained it.

    One day three uniformed men had burst into his house, and one of them administered an injection. He blacked out, and found himself here.

    It was their mistake to leave him a window. The whole world happened in that courtyard. The rays of the sun shone through his small, barred window around sunset.

    And now, a hummingbird! It lighted upon the largest plant he could see. Its gray body appeared to have a purple cape. Its motion was swift, amazing. It was a sign to Won. He would be going home soon, either to his family, or to Heaven.

    The next day, he received another injection, and awoke on his front porch. He crawled to the door and knocked. His wife answered, in tears, helping him to his feet.

    From bed, he looked out his big window, which had no bars. He gazed at a lovely tree, with its fern-like leaves and berries. He was waiting for another hummingbird.

  13. Hummingbird

    I drove into my driveway this past fall, turned off the engine and looked up. A large palm leaf had drooped down and there on the leaf was hanging a nest. I got out of the car to look closely into the nest. There was nothing. Why had the hummingbird built a nest on a leaf I wondered. Had the chicks grown up and flown away?

    Suddenly my 23-year-old grandson walked out of the house and I showed him the nest.

    “So that is where the two eggs came from that I found on the driveway the other day,” he said sadly. “They had rolled on down towards the street and I couldn’t tell where they came from.”

    “What did you do with them?” I asked.

    “They were cold, and I thought they were dead, so I threw them away.”

  14. LATE ENTRY

    Get up, you fool.”

    I felt, rather than heard, the brrrrt and the whoosh of air nearly brushing my cheek.
    Slowly becoming conscious, I was aware, through the red glow behind my eyelids, the smell of hot dust, that daylight had arrived in the desert.

    “What are you waiting for? You never finish anything unless I’m putting my boot up your backside.”

    “Aunt Wray?”

    “GET. UP.”

    I rolled over and let the waking aches and pains ease up somewhat. I’d been following a smuggler through the Sonoran Desert, and was now somewhere west and south of Phoenix.

    Through the heat waves shimmering above the valley floor, I spied a hummingbird as it momentarily settled onto a mesquite branch about five feet away.

    “Aunt Wray? Is that you?”

    “You’ve still got a day’s walk. Deadline is tomorrow, but you’re not going to get it done in time.”

    Friends always marveled at my sheer audacity in these journalistic ventures. I always told them it was my Aunt Wray that pushed me through them. They didn’t know that she had died some years before, always appearing to me in the guise of a native animal.

    “Let’s go.” She landed on my shoulder and caressed her head on my cheek.

    Something in her voice made me look back.

    And there I was, lying where I had died the night before, the dysentery that had killed me soiling my pants, my teeth bared in a rictus grin, hands curled like claws in the morning air.

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