Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

Hummingbird Tales

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A hummingbird and his flowers. The image was t...

Image via Wikipedia

I love to wake up early. Seeing the first rays of light in the morning is a real thrill. When the earth is tipped at the right angle and there’s enough light for me to have my morning devotions on my deck early in the day before the rest of the world is out and about, life is just about perfect!

Last Sunday, Easter morning, I was up early, getting ready for the kiddos to come that evening. I stood at my sink, cleaning strawberries to have in Strawberry Shortcake. As I stood there on that chilly morning, looking out at the lake, a sweet little visitor zipped up to say hello.

My first hummingbird of the season! I was thrilled that, as cool as it’s been, the guys were back. 

Actually, he flew up to see if my feeders, which had been in the same place all winter long, had anything in them. Of course, they didn’t. I quickly brought both of them in, cleaned them up and filled them with the liquid food I keep in the fridge for the little guys.

By that evening, the scout was back. He filled up, then must have rushed out to tell his friends (or harem) because we’ve had several this week. They flash past me so fast, I’m never sure what it is until they’re gone.

One of my feeders hangs near my propane grill. When I’m fixing steak or burgers, they love to come in close to check out what I’m doing. Or maybe they’re trying to get me to leave so they can eat in peace. 😉

Did you know there are myths about hummingbirds? I’d never heard any like we did about bears and coyotes as kids, so I thought I’d look them up.

There are no European or African hummingbird myths because hummers only live in the western hemisphere. There are lots of Indian myths, starting with the Mayans.

You can find lots of hummingbird tales online. (That’s where I learned the following.) 

One Mayan legend says that the hummer is really the sun, courting a beautiful woman, who is the moon. That one doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I understand the hummer being the sun. They warm your heart and seem to move with the speed of light. And they’re as welcome as the sunshine after a month of rain.

An Apache legend tells of Wind Dancer, a young warrior, who was born deaf, but could sing magical, wordless songs that brought healing and good weather. He married Bright Rain, a beautiful, young woman whom he rescued when she was being attacked by a wolf.

Wind Dancer was killed during another errand of mercy. A bitter, death-bring winter ensued, but it suddenly and mysteriously ended after Bright Rain started taking solitary walks.

Tribal elders learned Wind Dancer had come back to her in the form of a hummingbird. He wore the same ceremonial costume and war paint he had worn as a man. In fields of spring flowers he would approach her and whisper his magical secrets in her ear. This brought her peace and joy.

When I lived in Pryor Creek, I had a single feeder on my patio. Every once in a while I’d have a little guest come over for a snack. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have more birds until I chatted with a friend and neighbor whose house backed up to the woods. She and her husband had several feeders along the back of their house, which they were filling twice a day! That leads me to believe the more feeders you have, the more likely you are to have a crowd of hummers.

Hummingbirds are social little scudders, kind of like middle school kids. Where one goes, all like to go.

Here’s the official recipe for hummingbird nectar from a birdwatchers website.

I have found that this is the best recipe for making your own nectar–I feel the birds prefer it over the various instant mixes.


1 Part Sugar
4 Parts Water
Boil 1-2 Minutes
Cool & Store In Refrigerator

Never use honey or artificial sweeteners! Honey ferments easily, and can cause sores in a hummers mouth. Artificial sweeteners have no food value. DO NOT use red food coloring in your solution, as this could be harmful to your hummers. No testing has been done on the effects dye has on birds. Most feeders have red on them and that should be enough.

 I didn’t have that recipe, so a few years ago I made up my own. I’d see Ina Garten on TV making a simple syrup, so I used that. Then, since I didn’t have red dye (I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to use it) I put in a measure of pre-sweetened red Koolaide.

Hummingbirds fought each other to get to that food! They stayed at it day after day after day until G-Man asked me if I’d bought hummer cocaine and put in it. I told him I hadn’t, but I’d probably given several birds cavities. 😉

Once, when I was a kid, we found a hummingbird lying on Grandmother’s window sill in her garage. We didn’t dare touch it (If you can’t touch a baby bird because the mama won’t come back, like we’d been told as kids, you sure shouldn’t touch a bird. Right?) We called Daddy instead.

Now my dad is a very tender-hearted guy. He put the poor little thing in the palm of his hand and quickly realized it wasn’t dead. It had gotten into the garage when the big door was open. Then that door closed, cutting him off from outside.  He’d tried to exit through the window and, not realizing the glass was there, knocked himself out.

Dad put him where the cat wouldn’t get him and we left him alone. In a while, he woke up and flew away. (Probably with a big headache!) At least that’s what Mom and Dad let us believe.

Of course, they’re the same caring parents who, when they told me the story of Little Red Ridinghood, said the wolf locked the grandmother in the closet instead of eating her because when I heard it the other way, I cried.

I found these pictures online. This one came from  here. It doesn’t tell how the woman taught the birds to eat from her hand, but it mentions it’s during migration, so the birds aren’t mating, therefore not as territorial.

It’s a blessing to have these small creatures near our home. If you don’t have time to keep a feeder clean and filled, you can plant flowers that will attract them. Planting them in drifts (large groups of plants) is the best way to attract lots of hummers. Here are some of the plants the birds really like from http://hummingbirds.net:

  • Azalea
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
  • Cape Honeysuckle
  • Flame Acanthus
  • Flowering Quince
  • Lantana
  • Manzanita
  • Mimosa
  • Red Buckeye
  • Tree Tobacco
  • Turk’s Cap
  • Weigela

 

Vines

  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Cypress Vine
  • Morning Glory
  • Scarlet Runner Bean
  • Trumpet Creeper
Female Ruby-throat and Columbines
Photo © Ann D. Martin

Flowers

Some may be annuals or perennials depending on climate.

Perennials

  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Canna
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Four O’Clocks
  • Foxglove
  • Hosta
  • Hummingbird Mint (Agastache)
  • Little Cigar
  • Lupine
  • Penstemon
  • Yucca

Annuals

  • Beard Tongue (and other penstemons)
  • Firespike
  • Fuchsia
  • Impatiens
  • Jacobiana
  • Jewelweed
  • Petunia
  • Various Salviaspecies
  • Shrimp Plant
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Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

3 thoughts on “Hummingbird Tales

  1. Susan, I was at Larry & Judy’s house yesterday afternoon. The hummingbirds were “dive-bombing” in for the sweet nectar. We counted 6 at one time, and they are adorable. Loved your post about the little darlings! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Wordless Wednesday…Hummer | jeanne's blog

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