Today my first Hummer of the year came to the porch as I was typing away in my comfy chair on the porch. It’s been a breezy day, and has warmed up nicely as the sun rose. He was a welcome sight, as they are the best weather predictors I know. Surely summer is on the way!!
My bird feeders sit in front of my chair, and I’m out often enough that most of the wild birds will come and grab a seed or two even if I’m there. My Cardinals fuss at me when they come to the feeder, chipping angrily and keeping a close eye on me in case I should move.
The Hummingbirds, on the other hand, are not fazed at all by my presence, and in fact will come right up as I hang the filled feeder that they will empty daily as summer warms up. I actually had spotted the feeder a few days ago in the storage box of plastic containers and oddments, and brought it out to rinse and dry. (Usually I have to frantically search for it, because I hate making the little things wait for a meal.)
Back home in Arizona, the Hummers are many, diverse, and a lot earlier to appear. There, we watched Broad-Billed, Rufous, and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds on a regular basis. Here in Kentucky, we’re limited to just the Ruby-Throats, but they’re more welcome for that.
Ruby-Throats migrate up from Central America, wings buzzing away at 15 to 80 times per second, flying low and by day so that they can spot any available flowers to get a drink of nectar to aid them in their marathon flight. They’ll eat insects, too, and they’re pretty fine at mosquito control!
Hummers make their migration alone, unlike the familiar geese and ducks who fly in easily recognizable flocks. Hummingbirds can fly up to around 23 miles each day, and when they can get a tailwind to help them on their journey, they’re experts at taking advantage of the boost.
Male Ruby-Throats court the females by displaying a large “U” shaped flight pattern accompanied by a distinctive buzz. They’ll also make short passes back and forth in front of the female if she’s perched. Once they’ve mated the male takes off looking for the next lady Hummingbird, and the female builds the nest and raises the babies alone.
Hummingbird hens will usually lay two tiny white eggs, then incubate them for 11 to 16 days. She’ll feed them for around 3 weeks as they grow their feathers and get strong enough to fly. She builds the nest so that it can actually stretch as the babies grow. Frequently they’re seen to begin building their second nest while still feeding the first clutch of babies.
Feed your hummingbirds a simple sugar water solution, no coloring is needed! I make mine quite thick, about 1 cup of sugar to 3 cups of filtered, boiled water, and stored in the fridge. We’ve also been careful to plant lots of flowering plants to give them a choice of nectar, and they’ll visit the Honeysuckle, Trumpet Vine, Mandevilla (in pots on the porch), and even the Scarlet Runner Bean blooms!
If you have room for a Hummingbird Garden, be sure to plant some annuals and some perennials, too. Favorites that I’ve seen are Butterfly Bush, Cardinal flower, Bee Balm, and even Petunia! Other good choices are Daylilies, Foxglove and Hollyhocks, and Impatiens. If you don’t have a lot of room, Petunias in hanging baskets will attract hummers and keep them coming back year after year.
Plant a few new flowers this year, just for your Hummingbird neighbors. Hang a feeder and a basket of Petunias, and help feed these tiny flying jewels as they entertain us with their antics and fearless reminders that the feeder’s empty! You’ll be glad you did!
As always, comments, criticism and corrections are welcome at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com – I read every one!!
With Grace and Gratitude
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