There's a so-called story about a hummingbird trying to extinguish a forest fire, supposed to originate from South-America, of which I've been trying to find the origin - in vain.
Someone knows perhaps this story and where it comes from ?

  • Do you have a source or link to this story? The first thing I found when googling was sechangersoi.be/EN/5EN-Tales/Humminbird.htm
    – Tom Sol
    Aug 20, 2020 at 14:29
  • I also found this link, pretty meager isn't it (this is a personal development site...) ? What I'm looking for is some serious documentation or references to Mesoamerican/South-American legends and tales...
    – Seb
    Aug 20, 2020 at 15:05
  • For tales I would recommend Sacred Archives although I have already looked and found only a few references to colibri and hummingbird. sacred-texts.com/nam/inca/index.htm
    – Tom Sol
    Aug 20, 2020 at 21:40
  • Possibly related to Huitzilopochtli? Huitzilopochtli is often depicted as a hummingbird
    – Sol
    Aug 22, 2020 at 22:46

1 Answer 1


As much as we might want it to be, as it stands, there is no evidence that this is a traditional story from any culture, Mesoamerican or otherwise.

This appears to be the work of author Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, who is a member of the Haida people of the Pacific Northwest.

In his book Flight of the Hummingbird, (PDF here), Yahgulanaas tells a story of a great forest fire. All of the animals stand by while the fire consumes their forest, except the hummingbird, who attempts to put out the fire drop by drop.

Yahgulanaas tells the story as as a modern parable in the context of saving the environment. The moral is that we all have to try what we can, no matter little that is, even when the task seems insurmountable.

Yahgulanaas says the following in his book:

This story of a small, committed bird determined to put out a forest fire is inspired by a parable told by the Quechuan people of present-day Ecuador.

Note the words "inspired by", not "based on" or "is a". The book doesn't contain a citation of the original story, so there's no way to gauge the extent of the inspiration.

Also, the book's illustrations are Yahgulanaas's own "Haida Manga" style, inspired by his own people's art, and the hummingbird is given the Haida name Dukdukdiya.

We can see why such a story would resonate with Yahgulanaas, because he says:

In Haida stories it is often the most diminutive creature — a mouse, a frog, or even that curious being that becomes smaller the closer it approaches— that offers the critical gift or the necessary solution.

Native peoples of the Americas have many traditional stories concerning hummingbirds. Many are compiled at sacred-texts.com. Also native-languages.org.

The Western Shoshone tell a story of the hummingbird acting as a lookout while Coyote steals fire to give to the people. "The First Hummingbird" tells the story of the hummingbird being born from fire.

The Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli is associated with the hummingbird, and his name comes from the Nahuatl word huitzilin, meaning "hummingbird". In some versions of the Aztec origin story, Huitzilopochtli led the wandering Mexica people to Tenochtitlan, and this is often used as a parable for perseverance.

This hummingbird site contains the following, which at least involves a hummingbird putting out a fire:

One Pueblo story tells of a demon who is blinded after losing a bet with the sun. In anger he spews out hot lava. The earth catches fire. A hummingbird then saves the beautiful land of people and animals by gathering clouds from the four directions. Hummingbird uses rain from these clouds to put out the flames. This legend says the bright colors on a hummingbird's throat came after he fled through the rainbow in search of rain clouds.

Notice that the hummingbird succeeds in putting out the fire, marshalling resources that would be out of reach for the tiny bird in the book.

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