The Lingering Hummingbird . . .

Hummingbirds fly south in the Fall, and most can tell when it’s time to go. However, sometimes one or more don’t get the message, and end up being around when the first freeze surprises everybody but the Weather Channel, and sometimes them too . . .

If you have been around since 2011, you may remember this photo of a lingering Hummingbird that stayed with me until mid November that year. It got colder and colder, and she stayed around – causing me to think up lots of things to keep her safe.

By the way, before I go any further, you should know that it is NOT true that keeping feeders out causes Hummingbirds to delay migrating, but it CAN save the lives of those lingerers.

This year, we had a another lingerer and freezing temperatures were eminent . . .

Ring , , ,Ring , , , (or should I say Ringtone , , ,Ringtone , , ,)

Mark: WOW! Gallery. Can I help you?

Me: Hi, Honey – glad you’re in the mood to help, because I need you to pick up something on your way home.

Note: This is normal. Mark is very used to this because I am always asking him to stop and get lettuce for the salad, or treats for the cats, or food for the dogs, or wine for me, or, God forbid, Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Cookies from Sprouts. If you have a Sprouts Market anywhere nearby, and you haven’t tried these, you are missing a shuttle bus to heaven. Seriously. But I digress.

Mark: OK, what do you need me to pick-up?

Me: A vaporizer for the Hummingbird.

Mark: LOOOOONG silence.

Me: Are you there?

Mark: Does the Hummingbird have a cough? (Now you know why I love this man.)

Me: (strangling on mirth as I consider the concept of a Hummingbird with pollen allergies): No, I haven’t noticed a cough, but I just had an idea about how to keep a feeder from freezing tonight.

Mark: Another LOOONG silence – as he contemplates how I will make a Hummingbird feeder out of a vaporizer. Some of you may recall how I made a garden bench out of a bedside commode awhile back, so all things are possible around here. Sometimes, that’s scary.

Me: Are you there?

So, Mark comes home with a brand new vaporizer and we test drive it in the kitchen to measure the exact height of the steam plume. Now, he’s into this. He likes to plug in and turn on new machines. Often before he’s put the parts together. This time, there were only two parts – and just add water, so we were good to go.

Once we have that exact plume measurement, we take a ruler and our new vaporizer into the garden. We construct a tower of things – plant stand, pot saucers, pots, wood blocks, etc. – right under one of the feeders so we can put the vaporizer at just the right height. The steam plume must terminate right at the bottom of the feeder reservoir so the sugar water won’t freeze, and the Hummingbird won’t get steamed.

Back in the house to await morning.

I give Mark an Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut cookie as a reward for being so helpful. Perhaps, I should have left one out for the Hummingbird. I didn’t think of it.

First morning light and I am out in the garden, thrilled that our Hummingbird is humming around a feeder that is not frozen. Great way to start the day – for both of us.

Things to know about Hummingbirds and cold weather.

Notice how this Hummingbird looks more like a teddy bear with a beak?

Hummingbirds have coping mechanisms for cold because they often wait until the last minute “packing” the sugar water for their long trip south (usually to Mexico).

They have been documented to survive temperatures into the single digits.

They do this by puffing up their feathers (teddy bear mode) and going into a torpor state almost like a coma. When they wake up in the morning, it is critical that they have nectar to bring their system up to speed – sort of like many of us need Starbucks.

So, if there is a lingerer, you can save its life by providing that nectar.

Also interesting is that Hummingbirds have no legs – just feet. That’s why you never see them walking around.

They have to have a perch to stop flying. If you are rescuing them from a spot with no perch – like a skylight well, for example, they will perch on your extended finger. This is more about exhaustion than love, but it feels thrilling anyway.

Hummingbirds can live to be 12 years old and often return each year to the same gardens. So, you may have some long time friends and not realize it.

Have a great Sunday!



  1. Love that new habitat! Let us know how long he lingers. You can tell him our feeders are full and it’s nice and warm in the AZ deserts.

  2. Super story. My dad had and loved hummingbirds. Once in a while one would fly into his half glass summer room (which was too hot to be in during the summer) or get stunned flying into the windows. He would patiently hold them until the stun wore off and they would fly off out of his hands. I always think of my dad when I see hummingbirds but sure learned a lot about them just now! I’ve had one fluttering around my yard but I am in a bit warmer area than you are so they probably leave later and we only dip into the 20s at night in the cold of winter (haven’t even dropped to the 40s yet but that’s because we are in a hot spell). I think my yard is one of the few with living, flowering plants around us. Some have hedges and palms but not flowers that come with a pomegranate tree or my grapefruit tree and they really love one purple flowering bush I have that looks pretty bad after several years. I need to replace it and I will definitely replace it with something hummingbirds love!


  4. Beautiful story! This is how we save the world–one steamy feeder at a time.

  5. I love seeing an email alert from you….I never know what it will be about, but I always love reading them and most often I learn something and get a laugh too!
    I’ll keep reading your blogs for as long as you write them! Much more than FB or Instagram…they’re a dime a dozen not meat and potato content (very satisfying) like your blog…sorry I digress back to your previous blog…

  6. I so enjoyed your story about the hummingbird and the vaporizer. You would get along famously with my 95 year old mother. She loves all kinds of animals, and especially, hummingbirds. About 12 years ago, my daughter and I had gone to visit her in Nacogdoches. On Sunday morning, I had let the dogs out in the backyard, when I noticed a little blob on the patio. I couldn’t tell what it was since I didn’t have my glasses on, so I had Melissa look at it. She said it was a tiny little hummingbird. At first we thought it was dead, but on looking closer, she saw it was blinking its eyes. She exclaimed, “It’s got eyelashes!” (feathers on its eyelids, I guess.) We were just bent over rather stupidly, looking at it and not knowing what to do, when Granny came over to see what it was. She scooped it up and took it to the front porch where she had a feeder, cooing to it the whole time. She declared that it just needed nourishment, and proceeded to poke its bill into one of the feeding holes. I’m thinking that’s not going to help after it’s knocked itself silly flying into the glass door. Melissa poured some of the liquid into her hand and they dipped its bill in over and over, and finally it opened up and stuck out its tongue. The next thing we knew, it had perked right up and flew away. Your story brought back a great memory.

  7. Timaree, If that bush is a Butterfly Bush or a Spirea, all it needs is the right food, some bone meal in the soil, and trimming. Google Butterfly Bush to see how to prune and if it is one.
    What a beautiful story, Eliece – warms my heart.
    Thank you for such a great compliment, Linda!

  8. I love hummingbirds! My brother kept feeders filled every summer. He would call me when the first hummingbird arrived and tell me the bird’s name. He lovingly named as many as he could. I remember him talking about Top Hat, Tuxedo, Ruby (with the red throat) and Easter (who arrived early one Easter morning) just to name a few. Every single bird had a name except for one summer when they came by the hundreds! They had multiple feeders and my SIL had to keep refilling filters all through the day. This seemed to go one for a long time as different hummers flew on and others joined the ranks. Then they were all gone except for one. My brother was so interested in the lingering one and would keep me updated (I live 525 miles away). Amazingly he received a new hummingbird a few days later. The two birds would eat their fill, rest in his trees and then consume more nectar. Later they flew off together on to the next leg of their journey. My brother was convinced the one lingerer that year had been waiting for his buddy to arrive before leaving. Another amazing thing he reported that season was when the first ones arrived the feeders had not been put out yet. He and his wife were in their garage with the side door open. These hummers had been there before so they flew into the garage and flew around my brother and sister-in-law’s heads gleefully announcing their arrival. My SIL raced into the house and started making nectar and filling feeders with my brother rushing each newly filled feeder outside. There had been bad storms along the hummingbird migration route that year and we believe this caused more to arrive at the same time. The returning ones knew where they would be welcomed with open arms!

  9. A lovely story and lots of good information. Enjoying your being back in this format. I’m a huge computer and Internet user but I avoid Facebook or other similar social media.

  10. Love hummers—who can’t? Thanks for the great story. I especially like the part where you tell how you came up with a unique solution to a common problem for many stay-behind hummers. Very creative!

  11. Thanks for the lesson on hummingbirds, Jessica. We don’t have them in Australia (although we do, of course, have some wonderfully colourful and interesting birds) so I’m always interested in learning about yours. And I’m so glad you were able to be a part of its survival.
    And you’re right – it does look like a little teddy bear!

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