Create a Haven for Hummingbirds

Anna's Hummingbird drinking 2005-12-09

Anna's Hummingbird

On a humid morning in October, a bird bander named Rusty Trump reaches into a pull-string trap and lifts out a calliope hummingbird. This species, which summers in western mountain meadows and forests, normally migrates to Mexico in the fall. But this young male has been captured in a backyard in Augusta, Georgia.

Two other eastward migrating calliopes spent a Thanksgiving in a park on the northern tip of Manhattan. Green-breasted mangos, a tropical species of hummer, have been spotted at feeders in North Carolina and Texas. In central Colorado, master bander Brenda Wiard is trapping significantly greater numbers of black-chinned hummingbirds just outside of their normal range. And Anna’s hummingbirds are showing up as far north as British Columbia.

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Make way for ducklings

Wood Ducks

Adult Wood Ducks

One of my favorite neighbors has four little girls that are close in age. When they were little, they followed her around the yard like baby ducks following their mother. I still call them the Little Ducks. I was surprised to learn that there was more to babies following their mothers than I thought.

Imprinting

The phenomenon of following the mother is called “imprinting,” a specialized learning experience that plays an important part in the survival of young ducklings and other birds.

There is more to imprinting than I thought.

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A Lesson on Birds of a Feather

Single black and white feather

Black and white feather

Feathers are most important parts of a bird. Only birds have them and although us humans notice them mainly for their beauty, feathers are a marvel of nature. Many scientists would have you believe that they evolved from reptilian scales over millions of years, but I think if you will check out the intricate design and uniqueness of the feather you will have as much trouble swallowing that theory as I do.

What is a feather made of and what does it do for the bird?

Biologically speaking, a feather is an outgrowth of the skin, much like hair in mammals. Like the scales and claws on their feet, and the sheath of the bill, feathers are keratinous or composed mostly of fibrous protein.

They act as insulation for the owner, assist in flying, provide camouflage, help secure a mate, protect against injury and are usually waterproof. There are at least five or six kinds of feathers that have been classified by ornithologists.

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Hummingbird facts

Ruby-throated hummingbird public domain USFWA

Ruby-throated hummingbird

I saw my first fall hummingbird last night. It was rather dark outside, but I think he was a Black-chinned Hummer. I have watched many hummingbirds in the past. They eat, they squabble with each other and then they eat some more.

I learned some hummingbird facts in Rockport at the Hummer/Bird Celebration a few years ago. Here are just a few facts to bandy around if you need some trivia to amaze your friends and relations.

Coastal Bend hummers include the Ruby-throated which comes from Central to Eastern United States. The Rufous Hummingbird travels the greatest distance-up to 3,000 miles and comes from as far away as Western Alaska. The Black-chinned Hummer comes from the Western United States. The Buff-bellied Hummingbird is primarily from Southern Texas.

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Bubble Bird, Rain Crow or Yellow-billed Cuckoo?

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I have to write to you about the Bubble Bird. I began hearing him and his companions last fall and then around November they disappeared. What drove me to distraction about this bird was that he “sang” at night. The only daytime bird I knew of that sang at night was the Northern Mockingbird. And this song did not come from a Northern Mockingbird or from any of the owls or night birds.

The song reminds me of a slow drip from a faucet in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep. It’s a sort of “bup (silence), bup (silence), bup (silence), lower tone bup, lower tone bup, and one last bup” or a multisyllable cross between a squawk and a definable trill.

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