When you buy a house, they can’t tell you everything. Some things you just discover over time. In our case, that extra something was the endless entertainment in watching our hummingbirds. They keep very busy feeding right up until dark. Our dominant bird often stations himself near his preferred food source, a bed of red Egyptian Star Clusters and allows no other bird to approach or feed. This dominant male claims these flowers as his own, dive-bombing the would be usurpers and chasing them in dramatic aerial performances – twirling and barrel-rolling, one around the other, while both make high chirping sounds as they go streaking over our pool and beyond.
When I work in the rose garden, a hummingbird will often dive bomb me, flying directly over my head, almost touching my hair. Or he will fly right up in front of my face, perhaps only five or six inches away and hover there, his body motionless but with wings beating furiously, making a loud buzzing noise. Then just as suddenly, he will fly backwards, flip around, and zip away.
We wanted to keep more hummers in our yard, so we planted more kinds of flowers that would attract them. Still, the dominant bird persisted in trying to claim all for himself. Next we installed two feeders in opposite corners of our yard. That’s made it impossible for the dominant bird to command all the feeding areas simultaneously while perched in one spot, so we are enjoying more hummers. The dominant bird continues valiantly in his efforts to control traffic. These birds engage in their flying fights so often, one wonders if it isn’t almost a pleasurable sport for them, frolicking and cavorting merrily in the sky.
One year a couple made a nest directly outside and below one of our high bathroom windows. Each day I stood on the side of the tub to peer down into the nest, where two eggs soon hatched into two tiny birds. They were motionless until their momma arrived; then they suddenly morphed into two big mouths rising up from the nest to receive food. Hummingbirds are best known for eating nectar and sugar water, but they also eat small insects for protein. When you find an abandoned nest, you cannot believe how light it is – almost weightless. It’s made of spider webs and other gossamer-light materials which allow the nests to expand as the babies grow.
Some of our hummingbirds fly south to winter over in Mexico, while others stay throughout the year. We are happy to have them all. For a great hummingbird pictures guide, including examples of their different nest styles, go to Hummingbirds. This site also has other good Links.
Some of our flowers that attract hummingbirds include:
Egyptian Star Clusters, in colors of lavender, red, pink and even white
Tacoma, both orange and yellow, hardy climber, or miniature shrub
Purple Star Flowers, a climbing vine
Purple Trumpet Flowers, another vine that can be esplanaded on a wall
Mexican Orchid Tree, with small orchid-like white flowers
Yellow Bird of Paradise Tree, with sprays of flowers in clusters
Butterfly Bush, small red trumpet shaped flowers
Rose of Sharon, a large shrub with large pale lavender blooms
Lantana, in many color combinations, and solids – bush type or low growing ground-cover style