My Garden is for the Birds!
-- By Janet Hough, Master Gardener --
One day prior to that momentous event, the bigger of the two babies literally pushed out its smaller sibling. Fortunately I saw it go down and immediately jumped into action. Our dogs were brought into the house and I scooped up the little one with a piece of paper, being careful not to touch it with my hands. I put it back into its nest and backed away; watching closely through the kitchen window. Both adults came back to the nest and immediately began taking turns feeding the offspring as if nothing had happened. I sighed with relief that all was well.
A few days later, as I was washing dishes near the kitchen window, one of the adult hummingbirds kept flying to the window and then dove downward toward a cabinet that was against the patio wall. It was as if it was trying to tell me to come see something. When I opened the patio door and went outside, the adult bird flew to within an arm's length of my face then dove down toward the cabinet that sat underneath the window. When I moved the cabinet out from the house, out popped a baby humming bird, obviously not able to fly, but scooting about wildly. I managed to corral it with a dust pan nearby and lifted it up to another hanging pot some distance from its original nest; all the time being watched by the adult bird at a safe distance. The adult hummingbird flew to the baby bird as if to calm it. Soon the other adult hummingbird came to the now tired little baby bird and both adults began feeding trips to the new planter and the original nest to feed their babies. The adults apparently had no problem dealing with the new location of their errant one. We enjoyed this feeding routine for a couple of days then both young birds disappeared, hopefully to join their parents in feeding excursions.
Often times while hand-watering, I will have one or more of the hummingbirds come down to drink water from the hose. He or she will fly up to within 3 feet of my face and give me a stare as if to say “thank you”, then jet off on some important mission. I softly speak each time I see one and most of the time the hummingbird will fly down toward me as if to acknowledge my presence. I guess am tolerated.
My local hummingbirds do not migrate as some species do. So I have tried to plant shrubs and flowers that will give them natural food sources all winter long. My luck with sugar water and hummingbird feeders is not good – I seem to get more ants and other undesirable insects invading the feeder and my patio. Each year I purchase one more plant that will hopefully satisfy taste, give variety and meet the hunger of my hummingbird friends. Some of the plants I have added to accommodate my insatiable eaters include:
Cape Honeysuckle (has grown so wild in my yard that it now climbs up a nearby tree and sends out blooms 30+feet into the air (year round bloomer)
Bird of Paradise [Strelitzia reginae] (flowers off and on year round)
Lily-of-the-Nile [Agapanthus orientalis] and [Agapanthus orientallis ‘Albius'] (summer flowers)
Bignonia Amarilla, ‘Mayan Gold' (fall and winter blooms)
Pelargonium - the flowers are not really built for hummingbirds but they do visit the blossoms anyway (summer, fall, winter blooms)
Red Pestemon (spring and summer blooms)
Variegated Weigela (spring, summer, fall blooms)
Sweet Lavender (summer and fall blooms)
Lantana (blooms all year)
Aloe (winter blooms)
Of course, since hummingbirds are my prime focus for this article, I also did a little research on the species and some of their habits. Their scientific name is Trochilidae; they have an average life span of 3 – 12 years; there are more than 325 hummingbird species in the world; they are native to the New World and are not found outside of the Western Hemisphere; and many hummingbird species can breed together to create hybrid species. There are about 14 hummingbird species known to be living in California. I am undecided about which type of hummingbird I have but I think it might be the Black-chinned Hummingbird. The two pictures in this article are black-chinned hummingbirds. No matter. Did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward? Or that when a hummingbird goes into a torpor (hibernation-like state) it not only conserves 75% of its energy but may even be found sleeping upside down? Or that the rufous hummingbird travels 3,000 miles from the bird's nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to its winter habitat in Mexico? Or that the ruby-throated hummingbird flies 500 miles nonstop across the gulf of Mexico during both its spring and fall migrations? I am definitely impressed and shall remain enchanted with this little neighbor of mine.