September 27, 2017: My Hummingbird Family

~by Susi Pittman

One of the greatest enjoyments I have during spring and summer comes from the presence of Ruby-throated hummingbirds at my feeders. I have strategically placed one in front of the window where my computer sits, so that I may visit with them as they drink. It is just a gift to be close to them.

They arrive in the spring in mid-to-late March, and I can count on them leaving in the autumn by the end of September.

Throughout the warmer seasons, the salvia and lantana blooms prolifically with the indigenous forest vines of jasmine or honeysuckle. Every once and a while during the week, there is a sprinkler amid the garden annuals and they will enjoy their baths. I keep track of them daily and make sure that their food supplies are as abundant as possible.

They are attracted to orange, red and yellow flowers and I must say that this year’s cucumber crop was a bumper crop. The yellow blooms had the hummingbirds and butterflies dodging in and out with gusto.

These tiny creatures, for the most part, are solitary migrators, not flocking together to make their migration journey. Rarely do they get above tree-top height, flying close enough to be able to spot a source of food on their journey to Mexico and Central America. Most Ruby-throated hummingbirds opt to fly the 500-mile non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan peninsula, as opposed to following the Gulf coast around to the Mexican border.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle they face in their journey has to do with climate change. Early or late warm or cold temperatures can affect the availability of nectar due to the plants growth status. Also, the presence of bad weather can delay them in their journey, sometimes to their detriment.

Banding efforts have shown that hummingbirds will winter and summer each year in the same place.

I started out seeing a pair of Ruby-throats take residence in the yard my first spring here. Now our little population has grown to five birds. They are very territorial and guard the yard feeders against intruding hummers with the stealth of an F-18 fighter jet, their small wings beating 53 times a second.

Here’s a statistic of note; according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 20 million with 84% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 51% in Mexico, and 16% breeding in Canada, with others in Central America. And this is the best guestimate as hummingbirds are hard to track.

I can always tell when my little group is getting ready to leave me in autumn. At no other time during the year do they gather at my window, suspended in mid-flight, staring at me for what I consider long periods of time. I usually stop what I am doing and move closer to the window placing my fingers on the glass. They move close and tap the glass. This ritual happens every autumn, and within days of it happening, they are all gone.

The time has arrived and they have left me. I pray for their safe journeys and I ask St. Francis to watch over them. I will miss them very much. They are indeed one of God’s most beautifully crafted creatures, reminding me how much God loves us. Such beauty was not necessary for God, but it was necessary for God to present to us a visible reminder that His love is always beautiful.

I encourage you to connect with the Pollinator Partnership. They have eco-regional planting guides titled, Selecting Plants for Pollinators, which are tailored to specific areas of the United States. You can find out which eco-region you live in and get your free guide by entering your zip code. Then prepare your yard in the Spring for their arrival.


Susi Pittman is founder of and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; a member of the St. John’ s Catholic Writers Guild;
a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the National Wildlife Federation, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.



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