Season of Spring

Hummingbirds

 

What is the fascination of watching a Hummingbird? Hummingbirds are fast, they fly left, right, up, down, backwards and even upside down and can hover for as long as they like. 

Most people at some point in their life hope to see a Hummingbird in action or in flight. If you are lucky enough to be in a Hummingbird area then chances are that you just might have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a Hummingbird or duck to miss that loud fluttering sound they make as they zoom past you.

Different species of Hummingbirds.
There are at least 325 to 340 species of Hummingbirds and the best way to identify the breed is by the location of the Hummingbird. Hummingbirds are in the Trochilidae family.  They range in different sizes, from the biggest being the Giant Hummingbird to the smallest being the Bee Hummingbird. The Giant Hummingbird weighing as much as 24 grams and measuring 8.5 inches long and the Bee Hummingbird weighing as little as 2 grams and measuring around 2 inches long (slightly bigger than a real bee).  The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world and they live on the Caribbean Islands.

Hummingbird Habitat
Some species of Hummingbirds build the smallest bird nests.  They are so tiny that they can be the size of a thimble (less than an inch across and an inch in height).  A female hummingbird usually lays 2 white eggs.  The eggs will hatch around 14 days and the chicks are born with their eyes closes and with no feathers.   Around 22 days after they hatch they will pledge from their nest. The female hummingbird does all the building of the nest and all the feeding for her young.   The male hummingbirds and female hummingbirds seek seperate territories.  The male hummingbird selects his territory for his food source only; whereas the female selects her territory for building her nest in a protected area and for her food source.    

How many times does a Hummingbird flap its wings in a second?
Depending on its size and species, a Hummingbird can flap its wings anywhere from 15 to 80 times in a second.  Hummingbirds get their name from the sound that their wings make when they hover in mid-air rapidly flapping their wings.  Their wings move backwards and forwards as their bodies are held upright.  The tiny Bee Hummingbird beats its wings around 200 times in a second where as bigger Hummingbird's wings can beat over 50 times in a second as they hover in mid air. 

How can you attract Hummingbirds to your garden?
There are several different ways to attract Hummingbirds into your garden. One way is by planting a Hummingbird garden with the appropriate flowers, trees, shrubs and vines. Your best bet is to attract them with high visibility and nectar plants as Hummingbirds do not have much sense of smell and the flowers that do attract hummingbirds have very little or no fragrance at all. Due to their long and tapered bills, Hummingbirds are able to hover in front of the flowers and sip the nectar with their tongue from the centre of tubular flowers. 

Hummingbirds eat soft insects and spiders to get their intake of protein.   Protein is needed to help build their muscle mass. Therefore, it is best that you do not use pesticides in your garden as this will kill off the small insects that the Hummingbirds rely on and they could even ingest the pesticides which can make them sick or even kill the Hummingbird.

Hummingbirds provide an essential role as pollinateors as they fly from flower to flower for nectar.

Hanging a Hummingbird feeder is another way to attract Hummingbirds into your garden. Be patient as it may take some time before a Hummingbird finds your feeder in their hunt for food. Sugar-water feeders must remain clean and the syrup must be fresh or the Hummingbirds will not feed from them. Hummingbirds get their energy from nectar and the sugar-water from feeders. When mixing the sugar and water the rule of thumb is that it should be one part cane sugar to four parts of tap water or simply purchase pre-made liquid mixtures for easy.  The Hummingbird feeder needs to be cleaned out at least every three to four days. Also, clean it if it shows any signs of mold or if the syrup is cloudy.  Try to refrain from using red food coloring in the water as it is not known if it is harmful to the Hummingbirds, purchase Hummingbird feeders that contain the color red instead.

Another way to try to attract Hummingbirds to your garden is to place some ripened fruit close to the plants and/or feeders. The fruit will attract flies and the Hummingbirds will enjoy this extra protein in your garden.

Hummingbirds have good memories and can remember food locations from previous years so try to hang your feeders in the same location each year. 

Hummingbird Feeders
There are several types of Hummingbird feeders on the market. You can find them in bird stores, garden centers and the Internet. When shopping for a Hummingbird feeder keep in mind the amount of cleaning that will be required. Therefore you should purchase one that is easy to disassemble and re-assemble.

Hummingbird feeders can be made of plastic or glass. The glass feeders are heavier, more expensive and if dropped they could shatter. They can be sterilized and last for a longer period if looked after. Plastic Hummingbird feeders are less expensive but tend to discolour from exposure. It is best to start out with small plastic feeders and hang them in several different locations in your garden. Remember when placing the Hummingbird feeders in your garden that you would like to enjoy watching them at the feeders so place them in areas where you can sit an enjoy watching them. Another feature of hummingbird feeders is that some come with perches so that the hummingbirds can rest while they are feeding.

Do Hummingbirds migrate?
In the spring, hummingbirds migrate to the United States and in the fall they migrate to the tropical areas. The shortened days tell the Hummingbirds that it is time to move on. By keeping you hummingbird feeder up, it will not keep the hummingbirds there for a longer period. Although you may still see some hanging around, they may just be fattening up for their extended trips for their migration.

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