- Monday, August 08, 2005
One hot day last summer, I found A hummer parked in my garage--not an SUV, but a bird. Well, he wasn't exactly parked. He was zooming frantically from one wall to another. He had been lured inside, I guessed, by the red release handle hanging on a rope from the electric garage door opener. The poor fellow was about to wear himself out and had no way to eat, so I set out to capture the bird and set him loose. But how do you catch something so fast, so small and so fragile? I opened all the garage doors and windows and let him find his own way out.
The hummingbird--one of the most fascinating birds found in the Americas--is a tiny zipping- zinging treasure of iridescence. John James Audubon called them the "glittering garments of the rainbow." Learning all about these fast and fancy specimens of wonder, their habits, their characteristics, behavior and habitats, how to observe, photograph, sketch, feed and protect these wonderful tiny birds can be an adventure.
If you live on the west coast of North America, or any state west of the Rocky Mountains, you will have the opportunity to observe several different species of hummers. If not, you may be restricted to the only species native to eastern North America--the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Hummingbird feeders can bring in the hummers and they are popular with bird watchers. But are they safe? How can you attract hummingbirds to watch and photograph? What should you know about the bird? Do they hibernate? What do they eat? How fast can they fly? What amazing facts about their migration can you discover?
Part 1 – Research and Discovery:
Start your study with research at the library. Look for birding magazines that you may check out. These will be the latest source of hummer news and views. Some I would suggest are Birder's World, Bird Watcher's Digest and Wild Bird. There are many good bird books but the best on the subject may be Donald and Lillian Stokes' book titled Hummingbird Book. Another good one is Hummingbird Gardens which is published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Publishing. Some others to look for are: Hummingbirds and Their Flowers By K.A. Grant and V. Grant. Hummingbirds of North America By P.A. Johnsgard and The Life of the Hummingbird by A.F. Skutch. Check the adult nonfiction section for bird books and you should find several with sections about hummingbirds and at least two books entirely devoted to the subject. Spend some time reading up on this subject.
Study feeders. Now write an instruction sheet for people considering using feeders. Be sure you give good instructions on how the sugar syrup is mixed. Give warnings about using honey and artificial sweeteners. Why is each dangerous? When should feeders be put up and how often should they be changed? How much of the year should they be up? What types are best? Should you use red food dye? Here is a basic feeder solution recipe. Mix one part white sugar to four parts water. Boil for two minutes and cool completely.
Build your vocabulary by defining these words as they would relate to hummingbirds: nectar, migration, botanic, habitat, range, decurved, distribution, beneficial, hardy, orientation, zones, species, aggressive, emerald, buff-colored, immatures, avian, native, tubular, hover, pollinators, iridescent and incubate.
List the eight major species of hummers found in North America. (Anna's, Costa's, Calliope, Black-chinned, Rufous, Allen's, Ruby-throated and Broad-tailed.) Write their scientific names and try to discover how each was named and why. Find pictures or make sketches of these birds in color. Label each, show the male and female of each and mark your pictures with the M/F symbols. How do immatures differ from the adults of the species? List the eight species that enter the United States but are not considered residents.
Consider the behavior of hummingbirds. Are they territorial? What part does the male bird play in the nest building, and the nesting phase? Define and draw charts that show the dive displays of each species. Study the immigration dates and nesting seasons for your area. Draw North American range maps marking each of the eight main species ranges.
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