Bird watching: Hummingbirds

Brown Hummingbird Selective Focus Photography

Birdwatching is your lifetime ticket to the theater of nature.

I hope you’ll find some great ideas here to help you have fun watching birds.

It’s getting that time of year again. Spring Time! backyard birding Time!

For birdwatchers in the southern states, hummingbirds are already returning. The rest of you, in the Midwest and Northeast, are still awaiting the first hummingbird of spring to arrive.

In my backyard are several hooks for hummingbird feeders. I’ll fill and hang the feeders during the first week of April, just before the oldest hummingbirds arrive in Alabama. The first one I see will be a male, because the men migrate about two weeks before the females.

Did you know most small birds, such as hummingbirds, migrate at night? I’m not certain why. Maybe they do this to make the most of the more calm air of night, or to avoid the predators who are hunting during daytime hours, or perhaps they use the stars to guide them north.

As migration period draws near, daily activity starts to change. Birds who migrate at night, but normally are busy during daytime hours don’t sleep as much through the night any more. Hummingbirds of spring are awake a lot more at night.

And beginning to feel hungry… real hungry. He needs to put on some fat. He weighs about 2.5 g, but now he starts to eat more, to gorge himself. He eats his weight in food daily. He eats insect eggs and lions, bugs, gnats and the nectar of flowers. He’ll double his weight, and still only weigh about 5 g.

Every day the north requires him to come,

And one evening in early March, as the sky is turning dark, he launches himself out over the Gulf of Mexico. To the North he flies into total darkness, all by himself, weighing no more than a nickel.

Hours pass as he flies, burning off the fat he stored the same as a truck burns gas.

If the hummingbirds fat stores are adequate, he will reach the Gulf Coast. If the hummingbirds fat stores are not sufficient, he will die. If he has prepared himself well, he will have flown for 18 to 22 hours, crossed 500 miles with no food or rest.

Toward the second week of April I’ll see my first hummingbird of spring. I’ll have those feeders out early, ready to greet the little fella as he hovers in to land for the first time this year in my own backyard.

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