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If only I spoke Hummingbird! | Jan's Journal

May is the usual mating month for hummingbirds. - Courtesy of Jan Hallahan
May is the usual mating month for hummingbirds.
— image credit: Courtesy of Jan Hallahan

May 15, 2010

It was so chilly outside. My beautiful fuchsia tree was in danger of dying on my covered front porch. Research told me that I could place it inside a covered area to winter over, watering only on holidays. The brightly colored blooms didn’t know that it was time to stop producing, as they blazed glorious in the fluorescent lighting of my garage.

The day after relocating my tree turned bitter cold. I breathed a sigh of “Just in time!” as I opened the front door to acknowledge a blast of ice crystals on the car windshields. The early morning silence permeated the dark driveway as I gingerly made my way down the front steps with scraper in gloved hand. Suddenly, zooming out of the grayish-pink tinged dawn, a miniature helicopter buzzed and hovered shockingly close to my stunned face.

Caught by surprise, I stumbled backwards and ran into the house. A few more coins for my swear jar of course, but what the blank was that?

Incredulous and very excited (because I am a bird watcher) the question boomed out loud, “Was that a hummingbird here in Federal Way, in December?” Naively believing that my favorite bird never visited my house ever, and that these tiny birds migrated south for the winter, caused me to run to my computer. Utterly confused, I quickly scanned information on the elusive sugar-lover.

Apparently, these Anna’s Hummingbirds don’t truly migrate if given a consistent food source – and happily live year-round right here in Federal Way. I recalled the last feeder I used, which was tossed in disappointment at my failure to attract them, and the sticky, store bought red liquid poured down the drain.

Could my memorial tree, with bright pink flowers still fresh with nectar, have finally lured one to my yard? I was elated, but now action was required before it bypassed my house again in hunger and disgust. Home Depot supplied a simple plastic feeder with red flowers. Interrogating my neighbors, I jealously learned that the Anna’s Hummingbird frequently visited their feeders using a formula of one cup granulated sugar to four cups of boiling water, stirred to dissolve and cooled completely. So, not only did my neighbors secretly enjoy these stunning birds on a regular basis, but the birds seemed to have face recognition and visited their feeders often — even while they sat drinking coffee an arm’s length away. My bird envy turned to determination and purpose in keeping them alive throughout the cold winter months.

The Anna’s Hummingbird is of medium size and both genders have a green body; however, the boy hummingbirds are more beautiful as, when they turn in the light, they flash a bright red head. Hummingbirds are territorial with their food sources. I witnessed one male in particular, driving off unwanted visitors by flapping its wings while perched on a branch, and noisily chasing all potential threats with sky-high, dizzying flying antics. The feeder hangs from a shepherd’s hook placed exactly where the fuchsia tree had been. I patiently observe the feeder through my glass front doors while sitting on the stairs. At first, the Anna’s Hummingbirds flew away when I stood there clicking furiously with my Nikon camera. Six months later, they know me!

Spotting one teeny bird sitting on a branch of my Magnolia tree near the feeder last January, I tiptoed forward, and tried to focus calmly to shoot a quick series of photos. I was shaking with glee when another Anna approached and I held my breath. It was obvious that they were friends because the bird who flew in sat there staring and listening to the other one chattering non-stop. If only I spoke Hummingbird! I’m pretty sure the silent one was the boy. He just listened without interrupting. I marveled that even in the bird world, the guys try to impress the ladies by being attentive, jazzy red dressers, and providing a stable food source.

May is the usual mating month for hummingbirds. I don’t know how long this courtship lasted, but my little guy scored points, I’m sure. I plan on adding hummingbird flowers to my garden, and maybe another feeder. I think we’ll need it!

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