Walking along a dirt road through the woods one spring afternoon, I heard a loud buzzing up above. The noise seemed to indicate either a hive of bees or the intrusion of a drone, but it was neither. Hovering a few yards above my head, a single hummingbird was the party responsible as he examined a vine of coral honeysuckle, then momentarily paused to greedily drink the sweet nectar.
Like so many people, I have always been fascinated by hummingbirds. My grandmother loved birds of all types and always had feeders out for hummingbirds. Considering their capabilities, they are certainly a remarkable species worthy of all the attention. The smallest migratory bird, hummingbirds typically travel alone as opposed to in flocks, making the 500-mile, nonstop flight from Florida to the Yucatan in as little as 18 hours. To support their tiny hearts beating up to 1,260 times a minute, they consume half to double their body weight in sugar each day. Their acrobatics include flying backward and upside down, their wings buzzing at 80 flaps per second. Relative to size, they are faster than a fighter jet!
In the spring of 2020, our family, like so many others, was spending a lot more quality time on the front porch. Channeling my grandmother’s bird-loving spirit, my mother located an array of her old hummingbird feeders, which she hung in the magnolia tree by our porch — two beautiful stained-glass ones as well as two traditional ones. The first hummingbird sighting caused quite a flurry of excitement. Over the next few days as several others became regular visitors, we began eagerly watching and listening for them while enjoying the pleasant spring weather — and trying not to think about a Chinese virus.
There was just one problem. While we admired the artistic stained-glass orbs, the hummingbirds could not have cared less about their presence beside the traditional feeders, despite all being filled with the same sugar water concoction. The other issue was that they only drank from one of the two traditional feeders, and they drained it every day.
My mother patiently refilled it each morning for more than a week, but then she decided that they were being absurd. The feeders were not out of our nectar, and if the birds were going to be that picky, they could learn to suck it up, literally, from one of the other three full feeders hanging beside it. This standoff could only end one way. While Mom showed them, they showed her by buzzing off to greener pastures — or rather, redder feeders — leaving our three perfectly full feeders to sway quietly in their absence.
The moral of the story is if you want hummingbirds, give them what they want! Mary and Billy Keenan, who have done just that, offer all the tips and tricks you need on page 52 to attract your own hummers this spring and summer.