Small can be beautiful, but for some of nature’s most spectacular birds small can mean really tough, too. Witness the rufous hummingbird, which visits wildflower meadows and hummingbird feeders across the Colorado Plateau in late summer.
For a bird less than four inches in length, the rufous hummingbird pulls off an impressive migration each year. From their wintering grounds in southern Mexico, they fly north each spring to breeding territories in the Pacific Northwest, western Canada, and even as far north as Alaska.
Since time before memory people have used sunlight to make southwestern homes more livable. Many of the region’s characteristic cliff dwellings were carefully sited in places that are shaded in summer, but sunny in winter. That allowed natural heating to reduce the need for warming fuels.
Today savvy builders and homeowners are following in that tradition through clever design. Builders of new houses use passive solar design to bring sunlight in when it’s wanted and exclude it when it’s needed. And smart remodeling, too, can reduce heating and cooling bills.