Thirty Days in the Garden: When Hummingbirds Stop By

Anna’s hummingbirds are frequent guests in the garden. They love sipping nectar from the abutilon and the sage, both of which grow in abundance. The purple flowering sage flowers for months.

Anna’s hummingbird
Those small purple flowers are a hummingbird magnet

It’s easy to love a plant that looks good, with a wonderfully subtle scent that attracts beautiful hummingbirds and beneficial bees. By mid summer the bees are scouring the plant for pollen. I like sitting on the garden swing as they work. I prune the shrub for shape once a year and do a bit of trimming over the summer months so we can still use the path.

Salvia in bloom, a hummingbird favorite

The abutilon needs a hard prune once a year, and then they’re off to grow for the season. We have three planted along the fence line in the back garden and another one near the front window.

Ana’s hummingbird taking a sip from the abutilon

The one concerning factor with the abutilon is that if flowers all over. I remove the flowers from the lower branches so the hummingbirds remain high and away from Tessa’s view.

Tessa near the abutilon

With all these inviting plants, you might wonder why we hang hummingbird feeders. The simple answer: for the pure joy of seeing these tiny birds up close near the windows year-round. Hummingbirds need to eat every 15 minutes, so if you keep your feeders clean and full they’ll return again and again. In fact, hummingbirds come to recognize you over time as the keeper of the sugar water. They’ll buzz overhead if the feeder is low, or simply fly toward your face for a brief visit.

Hummingbird at small feeder

They are a delight to behold.

Hummingbirds: Taking Turns

Our hummingbird feeders are draining quickly this week, with several birds taking turns at the feeder.  I hope this means one of the female hummingbirds is nesting nearby. The adults need to eat every twenty minutes. Once the female lays her eggs, she is in constant search of food.

Many birds work in pairs to ready the nest, but not in this case. The male of the species doesn’t stay around to help. A flyby exchange of fluids lasting seconds is all it takes to fertilize the eggs. Then the promiscuous male hummingbird is off.

The female hummingbird lays a pair of eggs at a time. She nests five or six times a season. Tiny eggs are the size of  tic tacs®, laid in a golf-ball-sized nest.  She uses soft grasses and twigs, then wraps the nest with silk from a spider’s web to keep it together.

In addition to eating nectar, hummingbirds consume soft-bodied insects for protein.

While I consider putting my feet up over the weekend, she’ll be hunting and gathering, building and nesting and finally rearing a pair of infants till they fledge.

Head slap: so *that* is how she maintains that svelte figure.

What are your plans this weekend?

Female Anna's Hummingbird

Female Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird

What’s in the feeder?

Sugar water. Mix one part white sugar with four parts water and your done. Food coloring is unnecessary and harmful to these tiny birds.

Hummingbird Migration: Garden Traffic in Decline

I’m going to make an extra effort this year to track the hummingbirds at our feeders.  Just one day after musing about their migration habits last week, I read Joan Morris’ column in the San Jose Mercury News.  One of her readers sent in the following:

Dear Joan: I’ve been feeding the hummingbirds from my patio in the same Palo Alto location for more than 10 years now.

Ms. McClellan of Saratoga, who wrote regarding how often her feeders need refilling presently, is probably experiencing what it is like to feed the migratory hummers that pass through our area each fall and spring.

Her Saratoga neighbors probably need to refill their feeders as often during these several weeks while the birds fatten up before moving south.

It will quiet down any day or week now as winter shows more and the migrating birds finish their trips south. Just a few hummingbirds stay over winter locally, and nectar needs will drop.

Then in the spring there will be another, shorter surge of feeding needed on the hummingbirds’ migration north.

Gavin Tanner

I have noticed the increased consumption of nectar at the feeders (we have three).  It’s really cooled down in the last few days, finally feeling like fall. My California Girl uniform of a thin t-shirt and cotton sweater are no longer enough to keep me warm.

I found an informative website called World of Hummingbirds. They have a form on their site for reporting migration habits in your area.  They ask you to wait two full weeks till the last sighting, before submitting details.  I’m looking forward to taking part in this one small way. They use the collected data to: “help researchers around the world better understand and protect hummingbirds.”  I’m all for that.

magnolia feeder

Magnolia feeder: All business

hummingbird green bottle feeder

Beautiful red throat

back garden feeder

Back garden feeder

multiple hummingbirds at the feeder

A rare event at our feeders. They’re usually too territorial to share all at once.

Kitchen window feeder

Kitchen window feeder

Halloween Countdown:

lindy with pumpkin

Lindy Lu loves pumpkins