Photos by Cherie Langlois
Female Rufous Hummingbird at
a new feeder.
About a week ago, I heard a zinging-buzzing sound as a miniscule feathered missile (with a dangerously pointy beak) zipped past my head: the first of our Rufous Hummingbirds come home from wherever they hummer off to for the winter.
The little guy seemed kind-of ticked off, probably because he'd returned from sunnier climes to a depressing, soggy-gray April day in Washington. I could hardly blame him. And it probably didn't help his mood any that I hadn't put up a hummingbird feeder yet, or even remembered to replace the feeder broken last fall (oops).
Hummingbirds have the extremely high metabolism of a…well…hummingbird, so of course this bird was HUNGRY.
Red-flowering currant is a favorite hummingbird food source.
So off I went to town to buy a big new feeder, then dashed home, whipped up a batch of hummingbird sugar water (with expensive organic sugar, no less), and hung the feeder in front of our living room window.
Within fifteen minutes or so, I spotted the hummer (well, a hummer) sitting on the petite perch guzzling away, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
OK, I'm exaggerating here, but these deceptively adorable birds truly are tyrants—you don't want to mess with them when they're hungry, especially if you're another hummingbird. In fact, I just learned here that our rufous hummingbirds are THE feistiest hummingbird species in North America.
But seriously, I love it when our hummingbirds return each spring, and gladly provide them with sugar water so I can watch these gorgeous, fascinating birds up close. While the females have a shimmering green plumage with white and orange, the males flaunt metallic red and orange feathers that make them look like burning embers.
On a few occasions, I've had a super close-up look at them when one of a tussling pair of hummers has stunned itself against our window. Usually I put the patient in a dark box until he or she recovers, but once my daughter and I took turns gently holding the delicate creature in our hands, marveling at its unbelievable lightness—like holding a feather—and glowing plumage. Before long, the hummingbird blinked, fluttered its wings, and shot away.
Feeding hummingbirds is easy, fun and inexpensive. You can easily make your own nectar by boiling four cups of water and stirring in one cup of sugar for a few minutes (no honey or sugar substitutes) until it dissolves (find tips here).
Wishing you hummingbirds to light up your spring!
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