Monday, August 15, 2011

Hummer Time

My gardening year is now complete because the hummingbirds have finally appeared at my feeder.  I don't know how it is in other parts of the Midwest, but here in Kansas, I go through a distinct pattern every year taking care of the hummers and I generally feel a little slighted by them in the late spring and summer.

I always watch a migration website carefully in the spring and put out my feeder just after they are sighted in Wichita. Then I spend the months of May, June, and July, waiting, filling the feeder, watching the ants and the wind empty the feeder (liquid doesn't stay long in a feeder that is blown horizontally by the wind), cleaning the feeder, and refilling the feeder.  It is a never ending cycle.  But for at least the last five years, I haven't seen any hummingbirds until early August.  Maybe they head for town first and around August people tire of feeding them in town so they have to look around more.  Maybe the nectar opportunities in the rest of my garden are better in May, June and July and so they don't have to resort to the artificial stuff where I'm more likely to spot them. Perhaps they visit me now because they're storing up for the fall migration and I provide them ready, rich food. Maybe they have a betting pool to see how long the stupid gardener will keep at the fruitless endeavor of filling the feeder.

Regardless, just about the time I stop paying attention to the feeder, when the hot weather breaks, I almost always suddenly spy one exploring the feeder, as I did early this week on a cool morning.  I immediately filled the empty feeder, and now, once again, I have a pair of Ruby-Throated hummers darting in every few minutes. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the only hummer I've seen in this area and its migration route comes right through the center of Kansas. The male, pictured above where you can see a hint of his deep-red throat, actually spends most of his time sitting on top of the feeder stand, guarding the feeder and all he surveys. He is not very chivalrous, as is the nature of his species after mating, because he regularly chases the female away.  Ruby-Throated hummingbird males are not committed spouses, so after quick courtship and copulation on the ground (something they have in common with humans), the males don't stick around to provide a stable living for the family (okay, perhaps another thing in common with an increasing percentage of humans). It's the female who builds the nest and raises the young.  The female of the pair, pictured at left, scurries in and out when the male is gone and I probably should follow her to see if she has had a nest somewhere nearby.  By now, any nest should be empty, but it is possible she has been hanging around all summer spending most of her time at my honeysuckle and salvia and has raised a brood here.

I'm not current on my slang or rap music, but as opposed to "hammer time," "hummer time" sounds, and is,  quite a bit nicer (no jokes here, please).  I certainly appreciate the visits to my garden from the hummingbirds, however late they may be, for the lightness and cheerfulness of their presence.  They're about as close to being real garden fairies as I'm ever actually going to see.    


  1. A tangent question. Pictures show humming bird feeders with a red liquid. The only humming birds I see are hanging about the lavender. Why the difference between my experience and the pictures?

  2. I love hummers too, they are here all the time and are very territorial. The one that adopted my garden has become quite tame :).


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