Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saying Good-Bye to Our Hummingbirds ...

We've been enjoying the antics of our hummingbirds the past couple of weeks, as they zoom past us on the patio and swoop and chatter at each other, claiming and bravely defending their "territory" around the feeder. As summer fades into fall, it's time for them to prepare for their long journey south for the winter.

I've been fascinated by them and took my camera out on the porch one afternoon, hoping to get some closeup pictures at the feeder nearby.

As I watched, I noticed one little fellow in particular that kept chasing the other hummers away and all of the pictures I took were of him. He was ferocious to be so tiny, and seemed to have a little smirk on his face as he "posed" for the camera (don't you just love those tiny little feet!).

I have always loved hummingbirds, but didn't really know much about them until I did some research before I wrote this post (see sources below).

The most amazing fact I learned was that hummingbirds are very intelligent, and are able to remember places and individual people from one year to the next. I love to think that my little friend in the pictures will be back to see us again next year.

Here are some more interesting things I discovered about them ...

For a hummer that hatched during the summer, there's no memory of past migrations, only an urge to put on a lot of weight and fly in a particular direction for a certain amount of time, then look for a good place to spend the winter. Once it learns such a route, a bird may retrace it every year as long as it lives (just think about the "awesomeness" of that!).

The initial urge is triggered by the shortening length of sunlight as autumn approaches, and has nothing to do with temperature or the availability of food; in fact, hummingbirds migrate south at the time of greatest food abundance.

When the bird is fat enough, it migrates (most hummingbirds of the United States and Canada migrate south in fall to spend the winter in Mexico or Central America).

It's not necessary to take down feeders to force hummingbirds to leave, and in the fall all the birds at your feeder are already migrating anyway. Hummers can remember food sources from previous years, and if you remove your feeder, birds will just feed elsewhere, but may not bother to return to your yard the next year.

Hummingbird expert Lanny Chambers recommends continuing to maintain feeders until freezing becomes a problem.

Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down.

They do not spend all day flying, as the energy expended would be prohibitive; the majority of their activity consists simply of sitting or perching.

Hummingbirds feed in many small meals, consuming up to five times their own body weight in nectar each day. To do so, they must visit hundreds of flowers daily.

At any given moment, they are only hours away from starving. They spend an average of 10-15 percent of their time feeding and 75-80 percent sitting and digesting.

Hummingbird bills are long and tapered, perfectly suited for probing into the center of tubular flowers and feeders for the nectar, which they take up at the rate of about 13 licks a second. Often one can see long translucent tongues spilling out of their long beaks, licking the air, as they approach bright colored flowers.

I was so excited to get this picture of my little friend with his tongue out ...

Hummingbirds need our help this time of year to provide a reliable source of nectar when flower blossoms are less abundant. Let's don't forget to keep fresh sugar water in our feeders and keep them clean. Only white granulated sugar is proven safe to use in hummingbird feeders. A ratio of one cup sugar to four cups water is a common recipe. Boiling and then cooling this mixture before use is recommended to help deter the growth of bacteria.

It's kind of sad to see our hummers getting ready to leave, but hopefully they will find their way back to us next spring. I'd like to think so, anyway.

Sources:, by Lanny Chambers, St. Louis, Missouri
The Hummingbird Web Site, Larry & Terrie Gates
Journey North Hummingbirds


Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Wonderful post!

I'm saving the sites. Even though we aren't at the lake, full time, we keep two feeders, on the deck. Our neighbors keep feeders also. Between all of us,we manage to keep these sweet little birds fed all summer. The Hummingbirds were still there last Sunday, but will have migrated before we return. They usually leave around the middle of September, from Lake of the Ozarks.

We are constantly entertained by these little characters. Yes, they are characters, indeed. Amazing to watch.
Thanks for this post!!

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

Hi Janie,
Your hummingbird photos are great..and your post is so full of interesting information!

I didn't even feed them this year, but they found our home anyway through my 'lipstick' salvia!

I bet they remember you with those feeders!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Janie, great pics! I love hummers & just put up a feeder this year. I must remember to keep it filled. I'm not sure many have found us yet & they may be flying south soon.

Love this!


Brenda said...

That was so fascinating! You taught me a lot of information! I especially like that photo with that long tongue. Amazing to me that you got such good shots. I think I might frame some of those if I were you!

Robyn said...

Thank you for the hummingbird facts and for the adorable pictures. I'm definitely going to put up a feeder next year.

Tracey said...

GREAT pictures!! and thank you for all the interesting information on hummingbirds :)

nikkicrumpet said...

We love our humming wouldn't be summer without them. It's kind of a pain changing the sugar water every three days to keep it fresh...but boy it sure is fun to watch them!

Tricia said...

So interesting. I have 7 hummers at my feeders right now. They are fattening up...probably ready to leave pretty soon. I am going to a bird Banding in Oct. I thought I saw a band already on one of your hummers. Have you noticed that?

Anonymous said...

Hi Janie! What a fascinating post! Totally enjoyed it. I do believe he is grinning; I can't remember ever seeing one sit still! And the tongue; wow. I can't say it enough your photo skills are excellent!!!! I learned so much from this post; I love hummers to but never gave much thought to their habits; a totally new appreciation for them - Thank you. Til tomorrow have a great night, Jeannette

Jill said...

I love all your beautiful fall decorating, the bathroom update is gorgeous!

The dip recipe sounds yummy...I adore dip!


Scooterblu's Whimsy said...

Janie, Your hummingbird pictures are amazing! My grandmother loved hummingbirds and was so faithful about filling her feeders! They were a pleasure to watch! :) ~Rhonda

GailnGA said...

I live in GA and I'm a hummingbird addict. I sit on my deck all spring awaiting their arrival. They were late this year. I thought they weren't coming. I kept changing the water...hoping...finally I saw one...then we've got several. I know they will be leaving soon:-( I don't see as many now as I was seeing a few weeks ago. Everything seems to be fading. The fall colors will be here soon. Life goes on.

ForeverMe said...

Hi Janie! I'm back! At least visiting your page and a few others! Just haven't had any time for blogging lately! ugh! Your pictures are amazing! I love hummingbirds too! Isn't it amazing what a wonderful Creator we have to create such beautiful and fascinating creatures? There's just something about fall and these creatures leaving that makes me sad and melancholic. Tomorrow we have a very important meeting but I hope to get back to my blog again soon. Aren't these political attacks getting horrible? It's disgraceful! What hatred!

Anonymous said...

Morning Janie! Hope you are doing well. I hope all the rain this past week isn't causing you a problem? Also, hope you don't mind I tagged you. Take care dear I'll talk to you soon - Jeannette

Deb said...

These pictures of the hummingbirds are incredible. What kind of camera do you use and what kind of settings are you using to capture theses shots?