Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hummers!

No - not the rather sinister low slung cars with darkened windows but the beautiful and fascinating humming birds! I have to admit I'm not much of a bird person. I used to have a secretary who would phone me to tell me there was greater spotted what-not in the tree outside but I could never see what had drawn her interest away from my typing. However humming birds are fascinating!

Anna's Humming Bird - picture from Wikipedia
Humming birds are so common here in Palm Springs but even after nearly ten years of watching them, I still find myself fascinated! These tiny creatures are fearless and will fly inches from my face as they zip across my yard. They are so fast that they have few predators. One of the common species is Anna's Hummingbird, particularly prevalent in California and not normally migratory, so they are here throughout the winter. They are however particularly territorial and fiercely aggressive if another male invades their feeding space. Suddenly there is a flurry as the two tiny 'fighter pilots' spin around establishing their space. Our 'own' resident hummer is named 'Stritz' as it likes to sit on the leaves of the Strelitzia while I have lunch. Yes - we have named it and I do talk to it!

'Stritz' in our yard - the plant is Calliandra haematocephala

Humming birds feed primarily on nectar with some insects and spiders for protein. In order to maintain their high rate of metabolism, they have to consume the equivalent of their own body weight in nectar each day so they have a strong work ethic! Humming birds have no sense of smell so they are attracted to plants with highly coloured flowers. Red is often quoted as the key colour but any colourful flowers will usually attract them. In our yard they feed on the Lanatana, Hibiscus, Abutilon, Bougainvillea, Podranea and Caliandra. We also attract them with a feeder which is filled with red sugar solution.They generally hover to feed using their long tongue to collect nectar although they will perch too. Occasionally with large flowers, like the trumpets on Hibiscus, they will puncture the petals from the outside to get easy access to the nectaries near the centre of the flowers.

Our feeding station with the most unusual situation of two humming birds feeding at the same time.

The last two springs we had a hummingbird nests, the first year in our grapefruit tree in the small yard and last spring on a very thin and precarious  bougainvillea shoot. The nests are about the size of an egg cup and the eggs no bigger then a small pea. One or two fledglings usually hatch. Click this link to go to a short Flickr video of our 'babies' last year.  This year - no nest or at least we haven't found one yet!

Humming Bird nest - again courtesy of Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. They're such stunning little birds! You're lucky to see some of them there :)

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