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.
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!