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Wild Neighbors - Hummingbirds

by Keith Reins | August 27, 2013

Living close to wooded areas, Peninsula residents have many opportunities to view our wild neighbors.  One creature that is easy to attract is the hummingbird, the only kind of bird that can fly backward.

Iowa only has one common native variety, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird.  The birds have metallic green bodies and wings above a white belly.  The male sports a metallic red throat patch.  Males arrive first in the spring (late April and May) to establish their territory.  When the females arrive, be watching for the dramatic courtship ritual:  males swoop down and up in a large U on either side of the female.

Hummingbirds provide a lot of backyard entertainment.  Commercial feeders often have several feeding ports, but hummers are very territorial.  You will see two birds fighting to control the entire feeder, constantly chasing each other away from the ports.  Then, it’s common to see a third zoom in for a sip while the first two are occupied with each other.  Of course, it’s fun just to watch the birds hovering at the feeder.

Feeding is simple; just mix a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.  Heating the water will speed up the process.  You can keep a jar of hummingbird food in your refrigerator. You don’t need the commercial feeding mixture that is usually colored red.  Hummingbirds are attracted to red, but feeders are almost always red anyway.  If not, just tie a red ribbon to the feeder.  I once saw a hummingbird hovering in my pickup truck’s open window; I realized he was attracted to the red interior.

Also, consider hummingbirds when you are choosing flowers for your yard or porch.  They like long, tubular flowers.  Some possibilities include fuchsia, inpatiens, nicotiana and morning glories.

Above: Hummingbirds can be seen throughout the neighborhood as small as 3 inches

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Article: September 7, 2012

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