This summer my husband and I had the pleasure of enjoying the birds around our cottage. We had wrens, chick-a-dees, blue jays, hawks, robins, cardinals, sparrows and hummingbirds. We noticed a mother sparrow who had built her nest in one of our backyard trees, making trip after trip feeding her babies. That gave my husband an idea. He set out to make a very nice bird feeder and off to the neighbourhood store to buy bird seed. He fastened the feeder to the end of our deck and we would sit at the opposite end of our deck sipping our coffee and enjoying watching momma bird feed her babies.
When the babies were big enough to leave the nest they too started to visit the feeder. It didn’t take long for other sparrows to find the feeder and they too started to come. It got to the point that they were fighting to see who would sit on the feeder. At the time it seemed like a good idea to us so we scattered seed on top of the table underneath the feeder. Hmmm…not a good idea. More and more birds started to come and before long there was bird droppings everywhere. With that my hubby moved the feeder to the backyard where they could make all the mess they wanted.
Now to our little hummingbird friends. My husband got out our hummingbird feeder and filled it with his his sugar water recipe and fastened it onto a bracket he had hung about half way down our deck. It didn’t take very long for a little female hummingbird to find it. She came several times during the day to feed. We had to sit very still when she did come as she was easily frightened away. She would tank up just before dusk every night and then be back first thing in the morning. As she continued coming to the feeder, we could tell that she was feeling more confident as she didn’t scare away quite so easily as she did when she first started coming.
I happened to be sitting in my rocking chair one afternoon enjoying my iced tea. Our little friend decided that I was sitting too close to her feeder and I was encrouching on her territory. She flew under our canopy tent top and hovered in mid-air about 5 feet in front of me. It was as if this bird was saying: “You’re in my territory- MOVE!” Let me tell you something. When you have something that tiny hovering in front of you with a beak like a darning needle you better be yielding the right of way. So with iced tea in hand I moved to the end of the deck and she proceeded to enjoy her feeder.
Let me take a minute to share some interesting facts about these little wonders of nature.
They summer throughout most of the eastern U.S. , south-central and southeastern Canada. In the winter they migrate to Florida, southern Mexico, Central America and even to Panama and the West Indies. They defend their territories and will attack and chase other hummingbirds that enter.
These little wonders can fly straight and fast but can also stop instantly, hover and adjust their position up, down, or backwards with exquisite control. Their wings beat up to 80 times per second, they fly straight to a speed of 30 m.p.h. and up to 60 m.p.h in a straight dive. They weigh less than a nickel. They consume approximately 1/2 of their weight in sugar daily, and feed 5-8 times per hour. In the winter they have to fly 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico in one flight. It is a myth that they piggy back on other birds. Sadly most hummingbirds die within their first year but there are significant numbers that live an average of 3 years.
It’s interesting to know that these little birds have different characteristics that distinguish it from other hummers. A close look at them will surely make you fall in love with them and that’s just what happened. We called our hummer “Spitfire” pictured here below. The idea came from stories my mother told me.
She lived through the second world war and told me about the Spitfire airplanes used during the war. It was after multiple improvements that the Spitfire’s winning combination of speed, maneuverability, and firepower turned it into a formidable airplane to be dealt with in battle and became a much loved British icon.
Soon another hummer started coming around and this one we named “Nervous Nellie” due to her nervous nature at the feeder. Spitfire had made it clear that our feeder was her own personal property and so when Nellie tried to feed Spitfire would dive bomb from out of nowhere and chase her away. We were able to distinguish between the two as Nellie would fly nervously back and forth when feeding and would be always watching. Although hummers have no sense of smell, their eyesight is very keen.
My husband and I were entertained all summer long watching these little wonders of nature come and feed and chase each other. It was especially fun to watch when a male hummer came and tried to feed. That poor little guy never got chance to even land because Nellie and Spitfire dived bombed him to the extent that he finally gave up and didn’t come back.
As fall set in we noticed that our little hummers were coming less frequently. As my husband and I sat one afternoon sipping coffee he wondered about taking the feeder down as neither Nellie nor Spitfire had been around for well over a week. Can you believe that I almost wanted to cry?
Then out of nowhere Spitfire flew in for one last, long drink. It was as if she were saying: “I’m on my way south. ” So we sent her on her way with a prayer that she would make her long journey safely and return to us next year where her feeder will be ready and waiting.