Thursday, May 8, 2008

No hummingbirds in Jeollanam-do :(

Just like Koreans believe some stupid stuff about foreigners---I've heard "foreigners don't like coffee" and "foreigners don't like to travel" this year---some foreigners have their own pieces of misinformation about Koreans. For example, there's the belief that all black taxis are luxury cabs and will charge you an arm and a leg. There's also the belief held by many that walking into a 다방 will ultimately get you laid. I myself am no exception to dumbassery, as my readers know, because I believed for, like, a year-and-a-half that Jeollanam-do was home to these tiny, awesome hummingbirds (벌새, "bee bird"). Not really my fault, because I read about them on the internet *cough*, but sorry to say I am guilty of telling other people about them. I mean, I saw them many times, and I even captured one on film, but the video is far too out of focus for even Youtube standards. Here's a poor photo I took of one at a temple in Gangjin last year:

See? Awesome! However, I learned a few days ago that there are no hummingbirds in Korea. I first came across that kind of talk among the comments to this photo of a "hummingbird," and went over to Wikipedia to learn that the smallest hummingbirds are much larger than the things I've seen around here. (Plus, hummingbirds have beaks, strangely enough). Turns out they're actually hummingbird moths (꼬리박각시?), and Wikipedia has a write-up and some decent photos here. Also some pictures and information on related moths from "What's That Bug" here and here, the latter one mentioning the faux-hummingbird in Korea. Lots of photos on Flickr, and another mention of mistaken hummingbird-sightings in Korea here, from the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory.

Stolen from Flickr.

Stolen from Wikipedia.

Though insects are foul creatures, and nobody can argue with that, I must admit that these hummingbird moths are really awesome. They're a little bigger than a big bumblebee and are pretty common, at least down here. I'll bet they'll be in attendance at the Hampyeong World Butterfly and Insect Expo, going on through June 1st, because they seem attracted to the same flowers as butterflies. To close, here's a half-decent video of one taken in Korea:


matt said...

"insects are foul creatures"

One word response: Fireflies.

A friend of mine told me the other night about how one night when he was doing his army service at a guard post relatively close to the DMZ, he saw hundreds of fireflies, which amazed him. I'm sure I would have been in awe too, even though I grew up with them around my house.

Any ants, mosquitos, cockroaches or moths in my house face a death sentence, but I'm lenient with beetles and (small) spiders.

It's too bad there are no hummingbirds here. People really do miss out on learning just how vicious birds can be (but gosh golly gee they're so cute - how can they be vicious?). Watching a hummingbird hover and veer back and forth on a horizontal plane in order to scare the crap out of another hummingbird at a feeder is an unforgettable experience. Anyone wanting to make electronic music would do well sampling that sound...

hyungwlee said...

Dear Brian

I am a publisher of THE EAST; the only English newspaper, which is mainly focused on the East Asian information (at the beginning of every month, more than 12,000 free copies are distributed throughout the London area, particularly, where East Asian Networks are established).

I looked at your blog the other day and have been wondering if there would be any chance that we could publish some of your interesting articles on the paper.
We think some of your blog articles should be very helpful to the Westners who are interested in Asian Culture.
The East cannot afford to pay for your articles right now (as we are non-profitable organisation). However, if you wish, we can still offer you:
1. Advertising space
2. Link to THE EAST web site blog section

We look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Many thanks and kind regards,

Hyung Wook Lee

THE EAST, The East Asian Monthly Business Newspaper,
Elephant Consulting Limited, 37 Charter Court, Linden Grove,
New Malden, Surrey, KT3 3BN, UK
Tel : + 44 (0) 7912 608 321 / Web site: / E mail :
Registered in England & Wales, Company No. 6254454

gordsellar said...

Huh, I got the same comment from THE EAST.

The funniest myth about Westerners I've ever heard is that they defecate only once a week. Can't say I've heard many funnies about Koreans, though.

I, too, despise insects, but those moths are kinda cool.

And since you have a post that mentions both bugs and hummingbirds, the post I linked here may interest you.

Brian said...

I felt really special to get that ad from The East, but then I saw that pretty much everyone got it, even the people who really suck. I still said "yes," though.

That photo sequence was horrible. Damn those mantises.

And yes, those moths are neat. They're almost like real animals, and I'd be thrilled to get a visit from them. The fucking golden orb spiders, though, that are everywhere are the most wretched creatures on the planet, and it's no lie when I say I have frequent nightmares about them. It's bad enough when I was face-to-face with one . . . but in Namhae last fall I came across a huge web spread across three trees, and inside it were about a dozen of those huge black, yellow, and red females. Still freaks me out to think about it.

samedi said...

Turns out they're actually hummingbird moths (꼬리박각시?) [...]

I like insects - even considered a career in entomology at one point - so did a bit of research online to track down a little more information on the subject. It looks like there are three species of hummingbird moth in Korea and each goes by a slightly different name. I guess Macroglossa stellatarum is the archetype specie, as all the Korean names are derived from 꼬리박각시. (Out of curiosity, how did you manage to track down the Korean name?)

Macroglossa bombylans is 작은검은꼬리박각시.
Macroglossa pyrrhosticta is 벌꼬리박각시.
Macroglossa stellatarum is 꼬리박각시.

The link for each of those leads to the relevant page on the "Sphingidae of the Eastern Paleoarctic" website that has photos, a life history section that includes the best time to find each specie, and a list of what plants they're commonly associated with. Probably more than you needed, but I thought I'd share.