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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hummers

        
The hummingbirds have been back for several weeks now.  We have two groups come through, the migratory Rufous, stopping over on their way to somewhere, and a couple of weeks later, the ruby throated hummers, who stay all summer.  It reverses in fall;  the ruby throated are gone one day, and a week or so later the migrants stop over for a day.  Then the feeders come down for another year.

Both breeds have the same attitude toward the feeders:  they better be full and fresh.  The feeders don’t go up in April until we actually see a hummer, which has led to finding a little fellow hovering at the front door, looking in.  Then retreating to the phone wire and watching until the feeder is hung.  Tom once had a Rufous hover at his ears all across the porch over to the feeder pole.

For attitude, nothing beats a ruby throated hummingbird.  Not even a bluejay screeching at a cat and dive bombing it to a new location.  We have two feeders, one front and one back.  They seem to be used by two different groups.  The back of the house group seem to take the feeder as they find it.  A full feeder, great, a good meal.  Needs replenished, well, we’ll try again later.  The front of the house group expect feeder service on demand.

I was sitting on the porch one summer, chatting with my brother.  Suddenly I could not focus on some buzzing creature literally tapping on my glasses.  I could not brush it away.  Walt was doubled over with laughter.  A hummingbird not pleased with the freshness of the feeder.  When it backed off I could get up to look, and it was possibly correct in its assessment.  The bird stayed inches away as I took down the feeder, and it did not leave the porch.  I whipped up a replacement order in the kitchen and hung it up.  The hummer didn’t say Thank You.

Hummingbirds live five or six years.  That’s about how long we enjoyed the antics of one bombastic little hummer.  We had to call him little Hitler.  Male hummers spend a deal of time driving other hummers from the feeder.  Then, they don’t eat themselves; they retreat to a bare twig of a tree and wait for a new intruder. 

Little Hitler claimed both the front and back feeder as his own.  He spent countless hours in flight over the roof of the house in reconnaissance and offense.  When confident neither feeder was in imminent danger he sat on the phone wire in the front of the house, periodically rising straight up for a view of the back feeder, then settling back down to the wire.  We miss his antics.

Several years ago the feeders stayed up late in September.  We hadn’t seen a Rufous for a few days, but no one had taken down the feeders.  One night I heard a rustling on the porch and looked out at something I’ve not seen since.  A  flock encircling the perch on the round feeder.  There are four feeding holes on the feeder, but easily room for about twelve humming birds and that seemed to be the count.  They were feeding then rising up and changing places so another bird could feed.  Except the hole nearest me, where the bird had her beak immersed, and she never raised her head.  Her feathers were tousled and a couple stuck out from her body, as if plucking had failed.  It had been a rough trip for her.  Her beak stayed down in the hole like a third leg supporting her.

The others kept changing positions at the feeder, but no one bothered this bird.  I watched them for ten minutes, until they left in the dusk and settled on twigs for the night.  I stayed until they left because I wondered if the beat up bird could lift her head and leave.  She did.

18 comments:

  1. We tried hummingbird feeders for a few years but it seemed all we were feeding was ants.

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  2. I love them. The males are aggressive. We get only the ruby throats here. I think I have six or seven feeders out on the deck or in the trees. They love the mini feeders especially.

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  3. I saw one today feeding on the althea, which is in full bloom, by the turtle pond, checking each flower. don't know what kind. But you are right. they are such feisty creatures and fearless. we have a hummingbird bush on the front corner of the city house and the battles that go on amaze me. the damn thing is as high as the eaves or higher, covered in those small long throated flowers, plenty of food for any and all and yet those little guys will chase all away, even butterflies.

    I don't put out feeders relying on having flowers, letting them move on when the food plays out. I'm thinking sugar water is sort of like high fructose corn syrup. can't be good in the long run. I'm still trying to get the native perennials in here at the country house.

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  4. What an amazing story! I had no idea that hummingbirds were so feisty or social. When the rare hummer comes to my patio it leaves in short order. I guess none of my flowers are attractive to them.

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  5. I love hummers. I have a dozen feeders and they have to be refilled twice a day, the business is so brisk. I love watching the wonderful little creatures.......feisty, indeed and possessive as hell. I have seen one sharing with what I think must be a young'un. Mine are all ruby throated.....they have given me a new lease on life.
    By the way, in Southern California here they never leave.....steady customers 12 months a year.

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  6. I tried using a feeder a couple of years ago. Never had any hummingbirds. I've seen them feeding at the canna lilies I plant by the front porch, though.

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  7. The last part left me with a lump in my throat. All too often, nature can be cruel, but this time there was a happy ending.

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  8. I love this. And am consumed with envy over your hummingbirds. What do you feed them?
    We feed our local birds as well and have been amazed at how accurate the term 'pecking order' is. Some birds just have a whole lot more nerve and can keep other, usually dominant, birds away.

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    1. Hummingbird juice is one part sugar five parts water. The hummers we have seem to prefer a feeder they can perch on.

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  9. I confess I was a bit worried about the hummingbird that stayed at the feeder, so glad of the happy ending.

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  10. I always feel so lucky when a Humming bird comes visiting. They are such an interesting specie.

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  11. One of the most amazing creatures on this planet.The perfect blend of toughness and fragility.
    Jane x

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  12. My goodness, they appear to have no fear of you at all! I guess they know a kindred spirit and recognize they are safe. Please keep your camera close next time your hummer stops by, I would love to see him!

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  13. I am going to try to put a feeder out under my cabana and see what happens. Never tried that before.

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  14. Wonderful! We don't have anything like those little birds here, sounds like they are tough little characters. I am curious, after that spectacular and special sight do you now leave the feeders up for longer into September...just in case?

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    1. That whole sight was so astounding. I had no idea they might travel in groups. What made them late? Did that little one get buffeted by wind or did another bird do it. I was happy she could take a rest and hopefully go on. And yes, the feeders stay up until no one is left.

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  15. I love birds. And hummingbirds in particular. How I wish we could get them here. But I have never seen one. Sigh. You're so lucky!

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