Thursday, October 17, 2013

Godspeed, Little Hummers

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.
This little guy looks as if he has been "preparing" for quite a while ... just look at that little tummy!

What a little butterball ... Isn't he precious!

I can't help but wonder if he is the same hummer in the pictures below that I captured in June. If he is, he was much thinner back then ...

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 ... and endearing ... 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 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.

A couple of days ago, my husband and I were sitting on our porch enjoying the late October afternoon, and a hummer came to the feeder, which was just a few feet away from us.  After drinking his fill of nectar, he flew toward me and just sort of hovered about a foot away from me, as if he was trying to tell me something.  I'd like to think that he was thanking us for the nectar we provided during the summer, and, perhaps, he was even trying to tell us 'goodbye.' Who knows ... that may not be just wishful thinking on my part.

Soon this little fellow will be gone ... but through these pictures, he won't be forgotten.  I wish him Godspeed on his long journey and a safe return in the Spring.

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


Stacey said...

Your photos just amaze me! Ours have been gone for about 3 weeks. I'm still keeping my eyes open for a traveler. Back when they were here, they loved our hyacinth bean vine. :)

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I always heard they came back to their home again and again, so I hope this is your little friend, too. Wonderful photos, Janie. Love them and love you, too!



Anonymous said...

Hi Janie,

Amazing photos!

From your information about Hummingbirds, it seems as though the little fellow was connecting with you in some way. How touching!

Thanks for a beautiful post!
Pat from Tallahassee

racheld said...

Having just returned from a LONG journey South, I wish Godspeed and Traveling Grace to all sweet creatures in search of Home.