Hummingbirds in the habitat garden

Hummer ready to fly  ©Janet Allen
Ready to take off!

Hummingbirds, like other creatures, need food, water, cover, and a place to raise young.

I've read that the longest-living hummingbird so far is over nine years old, and that this banded bird had been recaptured more than six times—in the same yard!

Although most birds don't live this long, it's interesting to know that the hummer we see in my yard may be the same exact bird we've enjoyed in years past and that he's enjoyed my yard enough to want to return.

Hummingbird  ©Janet Allen
Ready to take off

The same person who recaptured the banded bird estimated that in its lifetime it had traveled at least 36,000 miles during migration as possibly as much as 49,000 miles depending on where it spent the winter!

So another issue we're concerned about is maintaining its winter habitat, which is crucial for its survival. It winters in Central America, so what can we do? Buy Bird-friendly coffee that conserves critical winter habitat.

We're also participating in various citizen science projects for birds.

Food

Hummer at a monarda  ©Janet Allen
Hummer drinking from a monarda

Because of their high metabolism, hummingbirds need to eat frequently.

We focus on providing nectar-filled native plants and offer man-made food only to supplement natural sources in the early spring and the late fall.

BUT they also need insects for themselves and for their young, and our native plants are key to producing the insects they need.

Going after a bee  ©Janet Allen
Going after a bee

Hummers are feisty little creatures! I've seen them chasing away much larger birds as well as bees.

In this case, I don't think he was trying to chase the bee away. I think he was trying to catch it to eat. He almost got it once as he chased it around the raspberry patch.

Can he eat such a big insect? I don't know. Maybe a case of "his eyes being bigger than his stomach."

Water

Waterfall  ©Janet Allen
Do they pass by to get sprayed?

People often say that hummingbirds love to "run through the sprinkler" like kids rather than take a more conventional bird bath. We haven't actually seen them do this yet, probably because we don't often have the sprinkler going except in the vegetable garden.

This probably isn't something we need to add, though. I assume they can find their own sources of water in our yard; perhaps they even fly near the waterfall to get sprayed. I'll have to watch more closely.

Cover

Hummer grooming  ©Janet Allen
Hummingbirds aren't always hovering at flowers! Here's one grooming on the dead pagoda dogwood.

Maybe it's just me, but since hummingbirds are always pictured hovering near a flower, I was initially surprised to see how often hummingbirds just perch.

It's understandable, though. Why would they just hover all the time? It takes a lot of energy, and they're already a very high-energy-needs creature. (In fact, they can die rather quickly if they get caught in a garage or somewhere where there isn't a supply of food.)

We leave a variety of dead branches or even our entire dead pagoda dogwood (seen in the photo) since they're providing much-used habitat resources even after they've died.

A place to raise young

Lichen  ©Janet Allen
Lichen: a nest building material

We haven't ever seen a hummingbird nest. I think it would be very unlikely since they're so tiny and they're so well-camoflaged with lichen and other natural materials.

Spider web ©Janet AllenSpider webs: a nest building material for hummingbirds

We probably have more spiders in our pesticide-free yard than in other people's yards.

And so we're providing one of the important nest-building materials for hummingbirds: strong, flexible spider webs that allow the nests to expand as the tiny birds grow.