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By Nash Black
Here one minute and gone the next — a flash of brilliant green, a splash of red and we know one of our most fascinating summer visitors has returned. The American continents are blessed as the home of about 366 species of hummingbirds, mostly in the rainforests of South America. We who live in the eastern United States have only one member of this family.
The tides that change the habits of earth’s species is slowly unfolding its secrets, but sometime about 30 million years ago the hummingbird ceased to make Europe and Asia its home. What happened? Who knows nor are they likely to find out during our life time.
On this side of the world we do know the smallest of the world’s birds have existed for a very long time.
During what scientists call pre-historical a stylized figure of a hummingbird was carved on the plains of the Nazca Desert in Peru. Much like the chalk horse in England it is highly visible from the air.
The Aztecs wore talismans of the hummingbird to emulate its energy, its vigor, and its propensities to work. It seems as if this tiny birds puts in a full day at hard labor, but this is not accurate. It takes long rests to conserve the very energy which enables it to fly with up to 50 beats of its wings per minute and do it backwards.
The Hopi and Zumi Tribes have this story in their culture: The world was experiencing a long period of no rain where food was scarce. Earth mother carried drops of dew to her tinny garden each morning to grow a few melons for her children, Night and Day. When life in the sprouting plants was at its lowest she left her children to go to the mountains to pray to the rain gods. Her prayers were answered. Her plants and faith flourished, while Night and Day crawled out of the cave where she had hidden them to become separate but forever bound.
Their main diet is the sweet nectar of flowers. They love the color red and will attack if you venture into the garden wearing a red T-shirt. Like us the birds can not live on sweets alone – they need protein, vitamins and minerals to maintain their body functions, reproduce, and fly so they are also avid eaters of insects, mosquitos, and other bugs.
Backyard feeders for these small birds are easy to maintain and one of the most popular of commodities in the pet departments from the box stores to the feed & grain emporiums.
The hummingbird is a delight to watch at the feeders. They are very territorial and will viciously stake a claim to a spot of their choice.
The evidence is not in but most experts do agree that is best to use honey to sweeten the simple syrup for your feeder as we use chemicals to clean and bleach white granulated sugar.
Important to note: Sugar or sweetened water when left in the hot sun will ferment. After hanging for a few days what we’re feeding the hummers is an early stage of booze. Be good to our finely feathered friends. Keep Their Feeders CLEAN & FRESH and they will find you year after year.