Monday, June 22, 2009


This fascinating creature is such a magnet for my attention. I maintain four hummingbird feeders around my house and one is within my peripheral vision near my computer screen where my computer sits at large windows overlooking the woods. As much as I enjoy my computer, when Tinkerbell arrives at the feeder, nothing else matters. I love watching them hover over the feeders.

It is easy to see the proboscis in this picture and it seems to be as long as the beak. Naturally, I can't resist trying to take pictures of them, but my camera isn't up to the task. Far more sophisticated equipment is needed for the spectacular photos available at or in the book Hummingbirds by Crawford H. Greenewalt. Birds and Blooms magazine also publishes some spectacular pictures taken around the country by readers. I was amazed to learn that we are very privileged to be able to watch hummers since they are native only to the Western Hemisphere.

When I see a hummingbird, I call it Tinkerbell, because it reminds me of Peter Pan's pixie friend. I have watched them long enough to be able to recognize several individual birds by size and color or shape. The male is very distinctive with a ruby throat, hence the name ruby-throated hummingbird. Some of them seem to have more iridescent green on the body. This is the only species we see in the northeastern U.S.

Every year they arrive in April and migrate in October. When they arrive, I notice because they dance in front of my windows until I put out feeders. They put on a guilt trip as well as anyone. I am amused to see them zoom up to the feeder and hover before feeding which reminds me of the posture of a sea horse. If ants discover the feeder, the hummingbirds can behave very annoyed so they dart around the feeder, then hover in front of the windows. I've tried lots of solutions to keep ants away from the base of the shepherd's hook where the feeder hangs. Any preventative methods work briefly, but the ants are persistent. All summer, we struggle to keep the little guys fed. They are worth the effort for they entertain, amuse and amaze.

They sometimes engage in mid-air combat and swoop down to prevent each other from reaching the feeder. That explains the four feeders. I started with one feeder and took pity on them to try to prevent too much armed combat. I expanded to two, then to four which seems to keep them adequately supplied.

I've seen pictures of people hand feeding hummers by holding tiny feeders in their hands, which is tempting. They are so cute; I want to pet them or communicate with them. They are only interested in feeding, so there's no need to get too fanciful. They are astounding marvels of nature.

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