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Part 2: Hummingbirds: The Ruby Throated Hummingbird and the Black-Chinned Hummingbird



BY
PATSY GLENN*







Magnificent flying machines...

You may be startled off your chaise lounge by the sight of a courting male rising fifteen feet vertically in the air, pausing, and descending with a whirring noise.The courtship of a Black-chinned male is very distinctive, and often includes aerial acrobatics that will remind you of a swooping pendulum.

Watch them hover at a forty-five degree angle over your salvia, sipping nectar from their blossoms. Can you imagine their wings beating 20 to 80 times every second? Just try it! What if you had to drink 75 per cent of your body weight in liquid each day?


Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photograph Luke Wade


Raising a family...


Photograph © Ron Austing
Tiny walnut-sized nests look like bumps on a horizontal oak tree branch. Thumbelina would have loved this tiny cup lined with plant down, spider webs ornamented with lichen, flowers and leaves.

Twice a summer the female feeds a family, usually of two. Plunging their needle-like beaks deep into the baby's throats, they regurgitate tiny insects, spiders and nectar.




Juvenile Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photograph Bill Smylie


Black-chinned hummingbirds are the most vocal of all hummers. You hear their high-pitched chitter, an angry chase note and repeated chips. Often you will hear them before you see them.
   
For the birds...

  • Plant Salvia (Salvia Greggii is a favorite), Pentas, Butterfly Weed, Mealy Blue Sage, Cedar Sage.                                                
  • Avoid pesticides; remember mamma is feeding those tiny downless babies nectar and insects from your yard. (Dad doesn't help a bit.)
  • Wire to a tree some clean organic cotton stuffing, available at mattress factories and fabric stores. Hummers like it for nest material.
  • Turn on your sprinkler (water level permitting) or have water dripping from a tree.



 


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