Spring brings with it a real treat for US birders – the return of the 13 species of Hummingbirds that nest here. Growing up in NYC, I was able to see only 1, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, but I did not lament that fact at all. Like all of its relatives, this little gem never failed to put on an enthralling show when it stopped by.
City Hummers and Look-Alike Moths
Ruby Throats were actually rather common in NYC in years past – so much so that, as a child in the Bronx, a favorite sport of mine was attempting to land one with my trusty butterfly net. I never came close – once I yelled to my friends that I had captured a Hummer, only to find upon closer inspection that my captive was actually a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. A fascinating creature in its own right, the Hummingbird Clearwing does indeed closely resemble its namesake in size and behavior.
These days, both bird and moth are more commonly seen in the Bronx Botanical Gardens and similar large, undisturbed places in NYC, but they do still stop by neighborhood flower beds from time to time.
West of the Mississippi, bird watchers have 12-13 different Hummingbirds to choose from, and once you venture into Mexico and further south an additional 300+ species can keep you busy for a lifetime.
Tiny but Fearless
Given that predators as small as spiders and praying mantids can dine on Hummingbirds, one would expect the tiny beasts to be extremely shy. However, quite the opposite is true. Driven by insatiable appetites and well-protected by their incredible speed and maneuverability, Hummers are among the boldest of all birds…in zoo exhibits I’ve actually had to shoo them away from me at feeding time!
This confident demeanor works in our favor, because Hummingbirds are very enthusiastic visitors to outdoor feeders and thoughtfully designed gardens. Window feeders and Hanging Feeders stocked with specially-formulated Hummingbird Nectar will soon attract any of these feathered jewels that happen to be in the neighborhood. Once accustomed to your presence, they will go about there business at amazingly close range, perhaps even feeding from your hand – a treat not to be missed!
Planting a Hummingbird Garden is great fun and good for birds and insects alike; please see Attracting Hummingbirds for details.
Please see also Enjoying Hummingbirds in the Wild and Captivity.
Hand feeding wild Hummers?…see this Video