It’s almost time for our little friends to leave again. One of the things I enjoy most about summer is filling the hummingbirds’ juice bar with homemade nectar, one part sugar to four parts water. I boil it on the stove, then chill it. This year I stopped using the microwave, because I read that it breaks down the sugar molecules differently, which reduces the energy they need for their high metabolism.
We see several Trochilidae every day on the deck during June, July, August, and part of September. With their tongues, they lap up the nectar in our red and yellow trumpet-shaped flowers as much as the sugar water.
Three kinds of hummingbirds visit Indiana: ruby-throated, black-chinned, and rufous. Ours are ruby-throated. Weighing in at about two grams, the male has a red throat, white collar, and forked tail. We call the resident in our yard “Buzz.” Mrs. Buzz (that’s her, above) has a green back and banded tail feathers.
According to the Purdue Extension Service, they look for a summer habitat with hardwood trees, flower gardens, and shrub patches, which pretty much describes every back yard in our subdivision. Their nests are on tree branches about 20 feet up. Since they also eat insects, they look for weedy patches where insects live. Hey! Finally, a decent excuse for not getting the yard mowed. The adult female can eat 2,000 gnats, mosquitoes or fruit flies a day and lays pea-sized eggs, which take about two weeks to hatch. (Purple coneflowers attract insects and so the next notch on the food chain.)
They beat their wings 50 times a second, so it’s no wonder my camera has a hard time getting good closeups. They can also fly 25 miles per hour. Related to swifts, they’ll fly forward and backward, and hover in the air. More than one nectar feeder is recommended, since males are territorial and will chase others of the species away from “their” dinner table. Their lives depend on it. They have to drink their weights in nectar to stay alive from day to day.
Hummingbirds are smart, and polite. I know this because they’ll hover in front of our sliding glass door when the feeder is empty. They also wing over for a “thank you” after I’ve filled it. My uncle says their hummingbird flew around the house to say good-bye last year.
Too soon the buzzing around our chaise lounge chairs will stop, and we’ll take apart and clean the feeders one more time. During Christmas sales when the little family is sunning in Mexico, I hope to get a better camera to record their teeny-tiny presence. It sure puts a big dent in ours.