Humming Birds in My Yard
Hummingbird at feeder
Buying a hummingbird feeder
About five years ago we decided to buy a humming bird feeder. We had other bird feeders including a nyger feeder for finches but had never had a humming bird feeder. After a little research we found that if you had a feeder with a perch the hummers would actually sit on the perch, so that's what we got. We also learned they are attracted to red, so a feeder with red on top would attract the hummers. We started with one feeder the first year, a nice bright red. Actually they are so fond of the color red we had a hummer try to land on a painting we had on a shovel because of it's bright red color!
So, remember, a feeder with perches and the color red will attract the hummers to your yard.
Here come the hummers
It took about two weeks before we sited our first hummer. Timid and quick to leave, but we had a hummer. By the third week our hummer had taken possession of the feeder. We named him the King because he was in charge. We knew he was a male because he had a red throat. Ruby throated hummingbirds (found in NY) have shiny/metallic green feathers. Males have red throats and females greyish white throats. It isn't actually a "red throat" but a band of red around the neck. The King wouldn't let any other hummers on his feeder. The minute another hummer came near the King's feeder, he'd chase them away. He sat on a perch in our small metal arbor and watched to make sure no one ate his food and if anyone dared to come near his feeder he'd chase them away time and again. Even though there are eight feeding holes around the feeder, that feeder belonged to the King. Hummingbirds are very territorial and protective of their food, particularly the males and they will fight to the death to protect what they believe is theirs. The King would chase other hummers right out of our yard, flying after them and chirping at them. The sound he makes is a kind of chip chirping sound, often heard as he flies overhead chasing other hummers. Occasionally when the King wasn't around, another hummer would manage to get some food out of our feeder. We never used prepared food in our feeder, only sugar water - one part sugar to four parts water, works like a charm. Of course red flowers attract hummingbirds to your yard as well. They like bee balm, hollyhock, impatiens and more. They are attracted by the red color and the ability to get nectar, not by the scent because they don't have a keen sense of smell.
The King left around mid-August. We left the feeder out for a few more weeks in case any stragglers happened by. Hummers travel alone unlike other birds and one leaving doesn't mean they've all gone. When they migrate the male usually leaves first. Most hummers from New York migrate to Northern Mexico or Central America. They can fly 500 miles non-stop! I read somewhere they often hitch rides on large ships headed their way.
Humming bird protecting his feeder
Male hummers at the feeder
Year Two of the Hummers
Considering ourselves experienced hummer feeders we decided to buy a second feeder. It only made sense if we had two feeders we'd have two hummers. We patiently waited to see how many would visit our backyard. Much to our surprise in late April the first to arrive was the King! Yes, hummers return to their source of food every year AND their offspring return as well. Many humming birds die after their first year but those that manage to survive have a lifespan of 4 to 5 years.
So, the King was back, sitting on his arbor perch guarding his feeder. Other hummers still tried to eat from the King's feeder but the King was vigilant, chasing all comers away. After about two weeks other hummers found our second feeder, placed across the yard on our shed with a clothesline nearby. We named the first visitor there, Flutter. She would sit on the clothesline but never on the feeder. Whenever she ate she would flutter near the feeder without perching. We didn't see her perch once the entire summer.
By mid-summer we had four hummers battling for two feeders, never sharing. It was an even mix with two males and two females. Their favorite time to feed was dusk. We could sit in the yard and watch them fly over our heads, fly over our house, and come back time and again to eat. Oh, there were fights. The King still kept everyone away with a vengeance. We often watched as they met to fight and chitter chattered in the air chasing each other all over the yard and far into the distance. Hummers can change direction in mid-flight and fly in all directions. Hummers wings can beat as fast as 80 beats per second and some smaller hummers faster than that. Amazing. Flutter chased other hummers too but she spent more time in the cedar tree and didn't dive bomb them when they sat at her feeder. They seemed to adapt to our presence and we could hear the hum of their wings as they sped past our heads. An exceptional moment for me was when I saw the King stick his tongue out to get nectar from a nearby hibiscus. We always thought they ate through their beaks but they actually eat with their tongue it was a site to remember. Actually I remember wondering what it was before I realized it was his tongue!
As mid-August drew near the hummers left one by one. Flutter was the last to go. It seems the shortening days and hormonal changes tell them when it's time to leave. Our hummers continue to visit each summer and we watch and listen to their magic with the same awe we had the first summer.
April 26, 2011 - the hummers are back. I was in the backyard and saw one fly by. I immediately went and got a feeder, filled it with the water and sugar mix and within ten minutes there was a hummer on the feeder. Not a minute later a second hummer showed up. Fighting ensued and the hummer that looked like the King or his offspring (babies will return to the area where they were born) chased the other hummer away. The King then came back to eat and when he had his fill he flew away. Two days later and there are hummers at the feeder day and night!
Humming birds at feeders
Still the hummers come. I'm sure they're second generation or approaching third by this time. We have kept it to three feeders so we can keep a watchful eye on them. It is both a relaxing and exciting hobby to watch these beautiful little birds!
Female Humming bird
Humming birds 2012
I could put photos of these birds in my hub everyday! They are just so fascinating. Just keep the feeders clean and full and they'll come back year after year.
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