A symbol of vitality and energy to the Aztecs, connected to rain water by the Hopi and Zuni tribes of the American southwest, John James Audubon called hummingbirds “glittering fragments of rainbows”, and we’re still fascinated by these tiny, powerful fliers. In fact, no bird can fly like the hummingbird — moving forward & backward, hovering for extended periods of time, and diving at speeds of up to 60mph. It’s the reason they are so amazing to watch.
Watch hummingbirds as they feed in the Panama jungle via time-lapse/high speed/macro cinematography, and be amazed at the graceful agility of their flight. It’s like seeing dancers performing in the air. Disneynature: Wings of Life: Hummingbirds – video filmed and directed by Louie Schwartzberg, and narrated by Meryl Streep.
Hummingbirds are fascinating…. for a lot of reasons. Found only within the Western Hemisphere, from southeastern Alaska to southern Chile, there are more than 300 species of hummingbirds living in a variety of environments, including mountain ranges, lowlands, deserts, rainforests, and tropical areas. Twelve hummingbird species summer in North America, migrating south to winter in the tropics.
In every environment, hummingbirds eat flower nectar, tree sap, insects and pollen, and they are big eaters because their super fast metabolism rate (about 100 times higher than an elephant) quickly burns up fuel. They also need a water source for bathing and perching spots to rest up during the day, sleep at night, and stand guard over their territory as they do not tolerate intruders (including other hummingbirds).
While loss of habitat and changes in temperature threaten hummingbird survival, they do have at least one thing in their favor—humans love to see them hanging out in the backyard, and create nourishing habitats to encourage frequent visits.
To attract, feed and care for hummingbirds in your own backyard, think – Flowers, Perches/Nesting, Insects, Feeders, and Water.
Always keep something in bloom during the time hummingbirds are in your area. They like blossoms with loads of concentrated nectar, and favorites are typically long, tubular blossoms that are red, orange, yellow or blue. Do some flower garden research on the best plants in your area for attracting hummingbirds and other wildlife: i) See “Information/Resources” list below for planting suggestions and other helpful hummer tips, and ii) Ask local nurseries and garden clubs for advice and recommendations.
Provide Perches and Nesting Spots
Assure there are plenty of good places for perching throughout your garden landscape, such as thin, bare branches or twigs on trees and large plants, a brush pile, and a thin clothes line.
Shrubbery and small trees that lose their leaves and regrow seasonally may encourage hummingbirds to nest in your yard.
Hummingbirds need protein; therefore, eliminate insecticides, and plant native, insect-pollinated flowers along with the hummingbird-pollinated flowers.
Hang Nectar Feeders
In the spring, a couple of weeks before the first hummingbird sighting in your area, place several feeders in the shade around the yard, far apart so that hummingbirds can’t see each other feeding. In the fall, don’t take down the feeders until a couple of weeks after seeing the last hummingbird. Shop Hummingbird Feeders
Basic Facts about Hummingbirds, Defenders of Wildlife
How to Create a Hummingbird-Friendly Yard, the Audubon Society (gardening tips for attracting hummingbirds to your backyard and advice on their care and feeding)
Feeding Hummingbirds – How to feed hummingbirds and hummingbird nectar recipe, the Hummingbird Society
Perches for Hummingbirds – How to fill the backyard with good places for perching, the Spruce (home improvement advice website)
How to Take Hummingbird Photos – Pro tips for the amateur photographer
Birds – A spiritual field guide by Arin Murphy-Hiscock (Explore the Symbology & Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers)
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Feature photo and hummingbird close-up photo are courtesy of Unsplash CC0