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Hummingbirds enjoy sweets and affection

Living the Wild Life

I had just settled into a small huckleberry patch when I heard a familiar sound of a male Broad-tailed hummingbird coming through the scattered pines, quaking aspen and serviceberry bushes. He was not happy that I was in his berry patch as he hoovered about two feet from my face, chirping at me while his wings made their shrill trilling sound. Soon he was joined by a female as I had probably interrupted her sitting on her nest while wading through the waist high huckleberry bushes.

The next morning while picking raspberries in my backyard, a male Rufous hummingbird buzzed me several times before landing to pierce a ripe berry for a snack before heading into a wild rose thicket. After finishing my picking chores, I grabbed my camera and set up near two of the four hummingbird feeders that I have set up near my flower garden.

It wasn’t long before a female Rufous showed up, ignoring the colored sugar-water, and started feeding on my flowers. A male Black-chinned chased her off but went to the sweet feeder and started filling its belly. Each time he dipped his bill into the feeder, the sun reflected off his black patch on his throat and turned it into a brilliant purple.

Then the hummingbird world turned upside down when a female Black-chinned showed up, chased the Rufous out of the yard and began gathering nectar from the flowers. She appeared not to have any love for another female near the male, but she needn’t have had any worries as she drew all his attention.

He chased her through the flowers, the chokecherries, out to the raspberries and back again. Finally, she disappeared in the rose thicket while he performed his “pendulum flight display,” appearing to be a plumb bob swinging from a fulcrum. With each dive he created a whirring sound, trying to coax her out of the thicket. He finally grew tired and perched on a limb high in a tree as he and I waited for some action to happen. I was far less patient than he and went to work in my garden.

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A tired female Black-necked hanging onto a flower petal and hiding. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com

About two hours later I noticed that he was again chasing her and sat down to watch the show. He chased her through the bird obstacles in the backyard and finally she became so tired that she landed upside down on a wilted hollyhock flower. Grabbing a petal with both feet, she hung upside down, feeding on what leftover nectar was left in the wilted flower.

“We will probably have a batch of baby hummers in about two weeks,” I told my wife when I went in the house for a drink. “The Black-chinned are attempting to raise their second brood for the summer.”

Broad-tailed, Rufous and Black-chinned are not the only hummingbirds that we usually see in the late summer but they are the most numerous in southeastern Idaho. We will probably also see the Calliope and maybe even an Anna’s during the fall migration. All will find several feeders and fall blooming flowers, waiting for their arrival from their nesting spots. They will only stay for a day or two before heading south for the winter.

I will eagerly await the arrival of the baby Black-chinned along with the migrants to bring color and excitement to my backyard.

Attracting hummingbirds to your backyard can be a frustrating activity as they are hard to bring into an area where there is not a lot of natural foods and cover. The Inkom area near Pocatello, the Heise area near Ririe, the Spencer area and the Victor area in Teton Valley are loaded with hummingbirds. They come readily to feeders in those areas while the cities lack cover and natural food sources and the birds must learn where those favorite spots may be.

Keeping feeders and planting flowers that the hummers enjoy for several years will develop a population in your backyard. They have terrific memories and if you move the feeders around each season, they will go back to the spot where you had a feeder the previous year.

Just like us humans; sweet foods, a comfortable home with a little love and a safe place to live, attracts these tiny birds for us to enjoy.

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A male Black-necked hummer feeding and showing off his purple neck. | Bill Schiess, EastIdahoNews.com
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