The Hummingbirds In The Pear Tree

by Free Speech on August 31, 2010

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

by Alison Seaton

In 2001 our daughter Anne put up a hummingbird feeder in her front lawn. Following a plant buying trip, a garden was created to fit into an L shaped site formed by the house and garage and about the same size as the garage. An ornamental pear tree was planted at the open end of the garden. Another shepherd’s hook with two feeders was added to the garden in 2002. By then there were enough hummingbirds to make sitting on the front porch with a cup of tea both fun and relaxing. We began learning more about hummingbirds as the summer population has grown. It appears that all of the hummers are Ruby Throated (in the Linnaeus classification, Archilochus Colubris). These tiny metallic green jewels are 3 ½ inches long and the male has an iridescent red throat. The distribution range of these hummers is Eastern North America, summering as far north as Quebec and Ontario and wintering from South Florida to Mexico and Central America. Some fly nonstop for as many as 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. Hummers are airborn and perching birds, unable to hop on flat surfaces. Food consists of nectar and small insects obtained by thrusting their long slender beaks and semitubular tongues into a blossom or feeder. Nests are several inches across made of down and lichens fastened with spiderwebs. Our Bay Drive hummers arrive in early May and leave by the last week in September when nights can be in the 30’s.

Back to Anne’s hummers. Each year, since the 2001 feeder, more hummingbirds have arrived in the spring to raise their families and enliven the garden. There are now 9 feeder bottles, each with 4 feeding tubes. The season begins slowly, when you can sit on the porch and actually count the tiny birds. By July 4th you can sit on the porch and try to count the darting green gems to no avail. By mid-August counting is a fruitless pursuit (if all the stations are filled you know there are at least 36) oops ,they’re in constant motion, materializing from the pear tree, or over the garage, or out of the oaks. By the same routes they can all suddenly disappear then reappear within minutes. We can sit on the porch mesmerized then be brought up short as one zips past your nose. One feeder is next to the porch railing allowing us to watch the tiny tongues and throats as the diminutive sprites gulp the 1 part sugar, 4 parts water, fuel. They, in turn, will hover inches away and chirp at us or to us. It doesn’t take long to recognize and become acquainted with some of these endearing visitors. On August 15, following a heavy rain, I stepped out of Anne’s garage into a cloud of tiny birds. Anne now fills the feeders twice a day. Once a day each of the bottles is rinsed in soapy, then clear, water on the front steps. Once a week all the bottles get scrubbed. As of Aug. 22, the darting dazzlers had devoured 45 pounds of sugar and are bulking up for the migration south at an astounding rate. Off the coast of Africa several hurricanes are building and their arrival off the US East Coast will signal the departure of a significant number of the tiny migrants who travel by day and sleep at night. Suprisingly little is known about the hummingbird migration. They are thought to travel alone, males leaving first.

Beginning next year the US Geological Survey is going to band and begin tracking Anne’s feathered family so I may be able to tell you about their families and travels. Our Bay Drive ruby throats are spending their days bulking up on sugar water and bugs in preparation for the trip south. In 2007 our last glimpse of the wee wayfarers was September 29, though one feeder remained for stragglers. Our feeders will get scrubbed in October and go into hibernation until April, when we will welcome our wee feathered friends for summer 2011. To learn more about hummingbirds check them out on your computer.  (I’d love to tell you where you could sit on Anne’s front porch but, we’ve been advised that parking in the neighborhood would become a problem after the 2 day drive to get there.) Our Bay Drive population is miniscule by comparison but, I hope this story will encourage you to welcome hummingbirds to your yard next summer, Allison Seaton, bird lover.

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