Addicted To Hummingbirds
I don’t claim to be an expert on hummingbirds but I have done quite a bit of reading on them and have been photographing them for a few years. Below are some facts that I have found in research and other notes that I have found from first hand experience. If you want to read an excellent book on humming birds I really suggest Hummingbirds of North America by Dan True. Some of the information in the “Fun Facts” is from National Geographic.
Some fun facts about hummingbirds:
- Hummingbirds are found only in the Americas and are most abundant near the Equator
- Of about 330 species only 16 of the breed north of Mexico
- The long distance flight record for hummingbirds is held by the Rufous at more than 2500 miles from Mexico to Alaska.The smallest hummingbird weighs in at under 2 grams and the largest at about 23 grams. Most found in the U.S. weigh around 5 grams or the same as a US nickel.
- The have been seen from sea level to as high as 15,700 feet in the Andes.
- While most often seen flying most hummingbirds spend 80 percent of their lives perched.
- A hummingbird can visit up to 1000 flowers a day. Their diet can be up to 90% nectar. The other 20% is small insects for protein.
- Hummingbird wing muscles are the most powerful for their size of all vertebrates.
Some interesting numbers for hummingbirds
- Wing Beats: Normal or average: 80 beats per sec. Burst speed: 100 bps
- Heart Rate: Average: 500 beats per min. High speed flight: 1200 beats per min. Sleeping when cold: 30 beats per min.
- Tongue flicks: While feeding 13 flicks per sec.
Feeders and Feeding:
- When it comes to feeders about any type you find in the store will get the job done. The most common have four openings or “ports”. Many have little perches built into them to let the birds sit down to dinner. I’ve found that some of the birds like to sit while dining and some do not. I have feeders both with and without perches and have seen birds that will only eat at one type or another. The cure I have found is to buy a four port feeder with perches and snip the perches off two of the ports across from each other. Another thing to snip off feeders is the little cage type bee guards if it has them. Have you ever seen a flower with a bee guard? Neither has a hummingbird!
- How many feeders do you need? At least two!! If you put up two feeders that are out of sight from each other or at least a good distance from each other you will avoid some of the fights that go on at meal time. I also like to hang the two feeders at different levels. I have one at about four feet from the ground and two others at about seven feet.
- Keep your feeders out from under overhangs. Hummingbirds have few natural enemies but most that they do have are other birds. If you watch a feeding hummer you will see it looking up at pretty regular intervals. It is watching for hawks or other birds that might be above.
- PLEASE do not use the red colored hummingbird food you can buy in the stores. There has been much research done on this and much of it says the red dye can cause harm to the birds. The last thing we want to do is give these little guys liver and throat tumors and the research shows the red dye can cause them.
- Mix your own food using table sugar and water in a 1 to 4 ratio of sugar to water. 1/4 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water is the mix that will get you closest to natures 21% found in flowers that hummingbirds eat when there are no feeders around. When making my mix I like to use bottled water. Hummingbirds have no teeth so they don’t need fluoride and they sure don’t need to be drinking chlorine that is in city water. If you want the sugar to dissolve better and faster, heat the water to boiling and then add the sugar. Don’t boil the sugar water mix.
- Keep your feeders clean!! If the food starts to cloud up at all dump it! Wash your feeders in a mix of 1/4 cup bleach to a half gallon of water and rinse very well.
- If you have feeders up and midway through the season the birds quit showing up don’t worry about it. There is a good chance they are sitting on nests. They seem to come off the nest very seldom to feed. Once the eggs hatch in 14 to 21 days mom will be back and hitting the feeder hard.
- The last two weeks of your season will see very heavy feeding as the birds are building up reserves for their flight South. You can actually see them fatten up in this time period as they increase their body weight by about 50%!!
- Leave your feeders out for two weeks in the fall after you see the last bird to make sure you catch any birds that may be running late.
I will cover a few basics here. The subject could go on for ever.
- You will need your camera, a tripod, a remote shutter release if your camera has the feature (wired or wireless), a comfortable chair and a lot of patience.
- Set your camera on the tripod and place it about six feet from the feeder. Yes, they will let you get that close. It may take them a little while to get used to you but if you don’t make quick movements and you talk to them in a low voice they seem to take to people pretty fast.
- Zoom in on the feeder with one of the feeding ports showing in the side of the frame. If the birds keep coming to the wrong port, cover up the ones you don’t want them to use. A plastic bottle cap off water bottles works well for this.
- If your camera has manual focus turn it on and set it for the center of the feeder port.
- If you can set the light metering on the camera to center point you will want to do that.
- Place your butt in your chair with the remote in your hand if you have one. Needless to say, if it is wired you are going to be right there with the camera. If it is wireless you will be able to back off or maybe even go in the house and trigger your camera through a window.
- Prime feeding times are just after sunrise and before sunset. The last few weeks of the season they will feed about every 15 minutes all day long.
- The more you are around these birds the more you get to love them. When you get regulars at your feeders you will see very different personalities between them and get to know one bird from another just by how it acts. If you are a camper or an RV ‘er get a small single port feeder to carry with you. I have one that stays in my motor home at all times. You can premix a cup of food for them and pour it in a small water bottle to take with you. Hang the feeder from a low branch near your tent or from the awning on your RV. Trust me… they will find it if they are there.The above are just a few highlights. If you have questions, I will try and answer them if you drop me an email. There is an email link on my contact page of my site.