Hummingbirds guest at my home each spring and summer. Extraordinary beings. They announce themselves with a “bzzzz” produced by their flapping wings. They’re always hungry and I am a serious host: I lay them a fine table with some of their favorite foods. Hanging baskets of red, white and orange impatiens grace my front porch. Pots of purple and lavender flowering mallows stand in front of my house , and my back deck offers begonia, coleus, basil, and peppermint flowers for their pleasure.
The birds visit several times a day, every day. They feed from the flowers and pollenate the plants and they don’t mind sharing an outdoor presence with me and my family and friends. Indeed, we and the hummers enjoy life together. The birds offer us wonder, serenity, and pleasure and we offer the hummers safety, calm, and quiet as they feed. It’s a remarkable relationship, one I haven’t experienced with any other wildlife. The birds show no anxiety around people, though they’re anti-social among their own species and tend toward territoriality. Thus it’s a fair guess that I see the same birds here each day. And that makes the experience personal and intimate.
They arrive at my home, usually one at at time. They flutter around the plants and hover in midair as they devour the nectar inside each of the flowers. The birds don’t dally. As soon as they finish, they fly off in search of nourishment elsewhere, and in the case of the females, to feed their young.
The bird feeding on the coleus flowers in these pictures is a female, ruby-throated hummingbird. Her neck and underbelly are white and her back is greenish. Her male counterpart is a more colorful, showier individual with an actual ruby-colored throat. This lady is my last visitor for this season, I think. I haven’t seen her or any other hummers for days. So I’m honored that she allowed me to get within five feet of her to take these pictures.
It’s migration time and as autumn closes in, plants that were nutritious and lush with leaves and flowers all summer are now spindly and withering. The birds head to Mexico and Central America where they’ll feast at tropical smorgasbords. They”ll be gone by the end of this month and I’ll start preparing for my own northeastern winter. As spring approaches, however, I’ll plan another floral table for the hummers return complete with all their favorites and perhaps, a few surprises.