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September 25, 2011

Female Anna’s hummingbird, tongue darting out

Ever heard a whirrrr past your ear as a tiny black and green shadow zooms past, either solo or as a flying-all-over-the-place twosome, twittering and clicking away to glory? Chances are very likely that it is a hummingbird! Chances are also very likely that they startled you and made you smile. Hummingbirds are such gorgeous creatures, so tiny and beautiful, so fun and interesting to watch, that I’ve long wanted to be able to see them up close and observe them in their natural habitat. Our apartment is surrounded by well-maintained gardens bursting with blooming flowers of every variety, and I would often see a fluttering motion from the corner of my eye and glimpse a hummingbird just before it flew away in a blink to the next tree or blossom. These glimpses always left me eager for more! I wanted to be able to photograph these beautiful birds, be nearer to them to admire their gloriously colored feathers, to be able to wow at their boundless energy as they zoomed around deliriously high on sugar.

The hummer has landed.

I love the idea of having a patio garden with beautiful flowering plants that would attract the hummers and be a green, peaceful space to relax in, but honestly, it’s not for me. The only fresh flowers we have inside our home are the ones we get from weekend farmer’s markets. So, planting a patio garden was out of question. What could a person with no green thumb or time to maintain a garden do to attract these beautiful birds?

Voila! The Hummzinger Hummingbird Feeder (12-ounce)

The answer – a hummingbird feeder! The feeder is a simple container that holds nectar (or seeds) and is a great way to take care of the neighborhood birds. Hang it outside on the patio or in the backyard, and within a day or few, the birds would have discovered this amazing source of limitless food and will be flocking to the feeder! After researching online, I ordered this one from Amazon – Aspects brand Hummzinger 12-ounce feeder. The glowing reviews promised that the hummers would find this feeder very user-friendly and flock to this in no time. The feeder is super easy to clean and dry, and the nectar is even easier to prepare fresh every few days, so the hummers are guaranteed to hang around. With much anticipation I placed this feeder filled with nectar outside on our patio. The instructions said to remain patient since it could take upto a week for the hummers to discover a new feeding source.

The first sight of a hummingbird feeding at our feeder, note how the black-feathered wings are tucked away at the sides

The hummers in my area? They found the feeder within 12 hours! I came back from work, all excited to check if there were any hummers at the feeder and I didn’t spot any immediately. I thought to myself, oh well, perhaps tomorrow. As I stood there looking at the trees beyond the feeder, a tiny bird suddenly flew from the pine tree towards the patio, it’s wings barely visible except as fan-like shadows of light, darting back and forth, looking left and right. Once it decided it was safe to feed, it fluttered up to the feeder and sat down comfortably on the perch before taking it’s first sip! This was the WOW moment I’d been waiting for, for so long. It’s a feeling and memory I’ll never forget.

Both the male and female Anna’s hummingbirds make frequent visits to the feeder

The male Anna’s Hummingbird in all it’s crimson glory

Nectar Recipe:

1. Bring 6-10 ounces of water to boil.

2. Add sugar with a 1:4 ratio of sugar:water [1 part sugar to 4 parts water, DO NOT change the ratio to use more sugar] Stir until sugar dissolves.

3. Let water+sugar mixture boil for 10 mins to make sure all contaminants and bacteria are destroyed.

4. Cool the nectar to room temperature.

5. Fill into the feeder and you’re all set!

6. DO NOT use ready-made nectar especially any that contain red-dye. The feeder itself is red in color and attractive to hummers, there is no need to use harmful dyes!

Note: It’s recommended that the nectar (sugar-water mixture) be changed every 3-4 days to avoid contamination, gathering mold or getting spoiled. Before refilling the feeder, make sure to rinse the feeder properly (no soap, just water is fine). Dry the feeder thoroughly and then fill it with the freshly prepared nectar.

As more and more hummingbirds visited the feeder, we learned to recognize each individual and the pairs … two pairs of Anna’s Hummingbirds are regular visitors now, they come to feed as frequently as every 10-15 mins in the mornings and evenings when the sun is shining directly on the patio. We’ve seen several exciting face-offs between the males and females of these two pairs … two females or two males never feed at the same time at the feeder, they fight each other off, and we’ve seen a male and female feed together several times.

We call this one “The Thinker”. She is contemplative and in no hurry to fly away unlike the other hummers. She likes sitting on the perch, bobbing her head left and right, sometimes staying very still as though she’s thinking deeply about something.

We learned to listen for the clicking sound that the Hummingbirds make as they fly at lightening speed, indicating their arrival in the area. They twitter and click as they feed too! It’s a delight to see the hummers feed as they fly. But most prefer using the perch to sit comfortably and take a sip.

Feeding in flight!

Another bit of fascinating information that has just been uncovered this month – Hummingbirds use their tail feathers to “sing” songs to attract mates – these songs were for a long time thought to be emanating from the Hummingbird’s throat, but turns out they use their tail feathers to produce musical notes! How amazing is that? Click here for more about the research and findings.

A watchful female Anna’s Hummingbird

Enjoy watching the hummingbirds!

They will make you smile and lighten your soul!


From → General, Photography

  1. Very nice write-up! Hummingbirds definitely are creatures which brings a smile on ones face and excitement in ones heart 🙂

    • Thanks Wrutu! Will you buy a hummzinger too? It’s so much fun to watch these birds feed from it … this morning I saw three males fighting over the hummzinger, each one driving away the other until finally the feistiest of them won! 🙂

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