Ever wonder how a hummingbird gets nectar from a flower or feeder? In this photo, I happened to catch his tongue sticking out, which may explain how that works. Just a lucky shot I had to share!
As I stood looking out the front door several days ago, a ruby-throated hummingbird like this one paused in flight right in front of me before flying on. Later, I wondered if he was stopping to say goodbye. I haven’t seen any hummers the past three days.
According to an article in Bird Watcher’s Digest, the hummingbird family occurs only in the Western Hemisphere with over 300 species, compared to 20-plus species recorded in North America north of Mexico. Their feathers are colorful and iridescent. The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards, straight up, straight down, or hover in mid-air (like the one who stopped at my front door).
They usually leave in September to go to Mexico or Central America for the winter. A Hummingbird’s natural migration is timed to coincide with the peak of flowering native plants that produce the nectar they need. Doesn’t that show how God takes care of His creation?
I’ve often wondered how long their flight takes. I’ve read that some flap their wings up to 80 times per second. I assume they take rest stops along the way. My husband and I visited Mexico once and saw a hummingbird. You never know, it might have been one that I had fed here at home.
Don’t Hurry to take in the Feeders
My grandmother used to take down her feeders to encourage the hummers to leave. I’ve read that you shouldn’t do that. I keep my feeders up until I haven’t seen any hummers for at least a week. Even after the regulars have left, there might be a straggler going through that needs a place to stop and rest and take a drink. I’d rather have something out to help him on his way. Other than homemade nectar, Hummingbirds live on flower nectar plus small flying insects.
Recipe for Hummingbird Nectar
I had just mixed a new batch the day before I last saw a hummingbird: 4 cups of water boiled with 1 cup of sugar. Never add honey, molasses or artificial sweeteners.
And now they are gone, and I will miss watching them from my kitchen window. I’ll be taking down my feeders soon to clean them thoroughly for winter storage. But I know the hummingbirds will return next spring when the flowers start blooming. And one day when I’m outside I will hear that familiar sweet trill before I even see him.
Related reading: Hummingbird Health and Conservation from UC Davis