Hummingbird Homecoming

By , April 16, 2010

Wednesday morning at breakfast we had an unexpected, but very welcome visitor to the homestead: a male rufous hummingbird appeared in front of our window to inspect our Christmas cactus.

The cactus started blooming again at Easter time, after a spectacular Thanksgiving/Christmas display. It’s gorgeous right now—no real surprise that it would attract a hummingbird. Rather, it’s the hummingbird itself that was the surprise.

We usually expect hummingbirds to arrive in late April or early May. We plan to hang feeders sometime in the last week of April, but we’re not concerned if that gets delayed till the following month. And yet, before Tax Day, here comes our first hummer, arriving on a cold, overcast, very windy day!

We’ve noticed a few nectar feeders up around town, so maybe some people expected hummingbirds to arrive soon. Then again, we begin to see Christmas lights before Halloween, so it’s hard to distinguish preparedness from whim. We immediately mixed up some nectar for our feeder (without red food coloring—we let the colored base of the feeder do the attracting) and hung it up outside our window.

Now the fun begins! They’ll gather until about July, when mating “dog fights” and aerial displays will become daily entertainment. Shortly after that the males will go elsewhere, while the females remain behind to nest in our yard. We’ll avoid wearing red unless we are prepared to be buzzed at close range. The hummingbirds show no fear, jealously guarding their territories, chasing larger birds away, giving us what-for, and, through it all, displaying some of the most wonderful plumage colors in the northern hemisphere.

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