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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

Goodbye, Hummers!

Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008, at 8:23 PM

This was the view from my living room window all summer, as hoardes of swarming hummers circled my feeders. How much longer will they be here??
Okay, folks, tonight is the first time all summer that I haven't had hummingbirds swarming around my feeders. I do believe they may be gone! Oops! It's 7 p.m., almost dark, and I see one lone bird.

Ordinarily, there are dozens out there, grabbing a bite to eat before dark. How long do they stay in the evening? Good question. I guess I haven't noticed. Has anyone else?

As I understand it, this part of the country is home to the ruby-throated hummer, and almost all of the ones we see are either the males, with their bright red markings, or the rather plain females and immature birds (which both look much alike). In times of droughts and fires in the west, we see more of the exotic birds, like the Rufus.

The Rufous Hummingbird has the longest migration of any hummingbird, more than 5,000 miles a year. It flies from central Mexico to Alaska and back again. Hummingbirds migrate, not in flocks, but each one entirely alone. Males leave first followed by females several weeks later. On the south-bound journey the young leave last, flying alone on their first migration with no adult to guide them.

The Ruby-throated hummingbird, which migrates to Mexico, tackles the sea crossing directly with a cruising speed of about 27 miles an hour. If conditions are favorable, it can make the transit, non-stop, in around 18 hours. But the passage is a formidable one and it taxes the hummingbird to the limit of its endurance. A head wind, even a mild one, may hamper it so severely that it will never reach the far shore and perish at sea.

Contrary to some urban myths, hummingbirds do NOT hitch a ride on the backs of geese.

Hummingbirds are found, by species, in the following countries: 162 species in Ecuador, 135 in Columbia, 100 in Peru, 97 in Venezuela, 90 in Brazil, 54 in Costa Rica, 51 in Mexico, 19 in the Caribbean, 16 in the United States, 4 in Canada, 7 in Chile, 4 in Uruguay , and 1 in Tierra del Fuego.

In collecting this information, I found a rather perplexing advertisement of a hummingbird drinking from an Ocean Spray bottle, inverted and set up like a feeder. I hope this is just an advertisement for effect, because real cranberry juice would be very bad for hummers. Feeding hummingbirds juice or honey can cause problems with fungus, and feeding anything low in calories will prevent the little bird from maintaining its energy. The proper solution to feed a hummingbird is "sugar water" with no color added: 1 part granulated sugar to 4 parts water. I heat the solution on the stove until it's completely dissolved - Then I let it cool before I put it in the feeders. If I have leftover nectar, I save it in the frig.

Hummingbirds do eat insects, like flies, ants, small beetles, tiny wasps and other small insects. They need the insects for protein and nectar for energy. Like most birds, they regugitate food for their babies. One of my sources suggested that we set out fruit to rot near our feeders, so as to attract fruit flies for the hummers to eat! I don't believe I care to do that, but I'm sure that the little birds can find enough gnats out here, without my help!

Though they're the tiniest of birds, they have the largest brain, relative to size, of all birds. The brain is 4.2% of total body weight. Hummingbirds have proportionally the largest hearts of any living animal. 1.75% to 2.5% of body weight. Resting heartbeat is 480 beats per minute and can go as high as 1,260 per second when excited. Resting hummingbirds breathe 250 times a minute.

Other interesting hummingbird facts:

* A nest is always tidy; nestlings will do acrobatics to toilet train over the side. (How do they know to do that??) 8-12 days after hatching, the babies can maintain their own body temperature. They will fledge at about 21 days.

* Baby hummers hatch in about 15 to 22 days, a relatively long time compared to other birds. After the embryo has consumed all the food in the egg, it hatches with the help of an egg tooth and a big hatching muscle on the back of its head. Once hatched, the bird loses these features. Any broken shells are disposed of by the mother. The stouthearted moms fearlessly protect their nests.

* Hummers live 5-10 years in the wild.

* Hummingbirds eat their weight each day and drink 8 times their weight in water. A hovering 3-4oz bird uses 35 calories per minute.

* Studies of fledgling success, from hatching to full feathering, ranged from 17% to 59% of the number of eggs laid. Predation accounts for most of the nest mortality. Hummingbird mothers fearlessly attack hawks, crows, jays, chipmunks, snakes and even yellow jackets in defense of the eggs and young, but not always sucessfully. Accidents, high winds, cold, heavy rains, and heat, account for the remainder of fledgling deaths.

* Predators are hawks, kestrels, large frogs, large fishes, tropical spiders, cats, and even praying mantises. Hazards include spider webs, windows, bad sugar mix, storms, weather affecting flower growth.

* It is a myth that leaving their feeder up too long will deter migration. (TRUTH): Migration is triggered by the Hummer's internal clock and the amount of sunshine (length of day).

There's a lot more out there on the web about these remarkable little winged marvels, but all this talk about flying to Mexico is making me incredibly tired, and for some reason, I am craving a cup of hot, black coffee! Maybe the talk of flying over South America is making me want a dark Columbian brew! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!

From the dark, cool hills of downtown Tillman, this is your rural goat-less herder, signing off.......

Showing most recent comments first
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The place where I buy my birdseed has a picture one of the ladies took out her window - of a hummingbird feeder, complete with hummingbird and the temperature on the thermometer next to the feeder was below zero. She was so amazed that the bird stayed there so late in the year. She said that she leaves her feeders out quite late in case there are any late stragglers that need a meal.

-- Posted by Ducky on Mon, Sep 29, 2008, at 5:20 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
My feeder is still out, attracting one or two hummers and about a half dozen BEES!

As of Sunday evening, I have two, possibly three, hummingbirds left, out of the DOZENS who have been here all summer. I would say that they know something's coming, and they're getting the heck outta Dodge!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Sep 28, 2008, at 5:55 PM

Really? I've heard about some of those other sites, but being technologically challenged, I don't have the knowledge of how to access them. Probably a good thing, as I'm sure our Statesman bad boys are mild compared to that other one whose name eludes me.......

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Sep 27, 2008, at 12:46 PM

Ha-he's a very "special" bird, reminds me of Dustin Hoffman's character in 'Rain Man'.

I watched a little of the debates,and I learned nothing.

I detest politics,or rather the mean way people treat each other,while espousing so-called family values and maligning those who have a different opinion,or political belief.

I don't know whose family any of them represent,the Manson Family perhaps? I stay off the blogs during election times,it gets too awful.

I appreciate the Statesman, at least they delete the more vulgar comments,that's more responsible than most sites!

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Sat, Sep 27, 2008, at 9:34 AM

Is that a real name, YR, or did you make that up?? My birdbook is woefully inadequate in the hummingbird catagory; in fact, it has NO PICTURES of them!

I notice that you posted your comment during the debates....I myself have mine on "mute"! I wish I could stand to listen to them!!! But, alas! I cannot!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 8:49 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
From a distance, it looks as if McCain and Obama are debating in flower pots!

Great blog! We have had a hummer that has flown into my Dad's garage several times,and can't seem to figure how to get out. It is so hot in there,the bird will be trapped for hours. I might add,we have no feeders,so he must enjoy my Mom's flowers.

I think this bright green bird may be a very special "Rain Man" hummingbird.

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 8:33 PM

Madeline, when I saw the Blog title it made me think that during your investigative reporting in the back alleys of Advance you stumbled upon the news scoop that production of the gas guzzling Hummers had ended!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 5:23 PM

I would also love to have a eucalyptus tree!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 2:31 PM

Is "flying the bird" the same thing as "giving someone the bird"? Someone gave me the bird last week when I cut them off in traffic... and it wasn't a hummingbird, either...

Youngest - that is the cutest journal! What good parents that child must have! You can see how they took advantage of a "teaching moment" to educate their child in so many ways! It was a combination science/writing exercise that the child will remember forever!

Projects like this are an excellent way for parents to enrich their child's education!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 2:29 PM

Why do they always fly in to our doors and windows? Are they the extreme Muslim jihad suicide bombing hummers?

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 11:45 AM

One more thing...when I lived in Phoenix I had a hummingbird nest in my eucalyptus tree. I remember thinking, if you take your index finger and form a circle by touching your thumb...that's how big around the nest was! The eggs really were about pea size. I took lots of pictures at the time but that's been so long ago...

-- Posted by lovebooks on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 11:20 AM

I was the one earlier in the spring/summer who was whining because hummingbirds were scarce out here in the flatlands south of Dexter...but no more! Since late July, we've had lots of the gorgeous critters. It's not unusual to look out and see 4 or 5 of them fussing and chasing around the feeder.

I read on line the other day to keep the feeders out until around Thanksgiving. I was surprised by this, but I will obey. If there's just one little guy looking for a bite to eat on his long journey south, I hope our feeder will be there for him!

-- Posted by lovebooks on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 11:16 AM

Nice Greer.....I am into Hummers and Flyin' the Bird!

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 8:43 AM

This is a really cute photo journal from someone (looks to me to be written by a child) who had a hummingbird build a nest on one of their porch plants. http://www.genconnection.com/Andrew/humm....

How neat would that be?

-- Posted by Youngest Child on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 8:41 AM

Easy Hoon, easy does it. This blog is about 'flying the bird'!

-- Posted by greer958 on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 8:20 AM

At first, I thought the blog was gonna be about Barber Shop Quartets!

I keep my hummingbird feeders up until they freeze and I have to bring them in and thaw them out!

I don't like the image of hummingbirds being eaten by praying mantises, I'll tell ya! Another thing for me to worry about at 3 a.m. in the morning...

YC, thanks for that baby hummingbird photo! They are SO TINY!! I love those birds!!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 7:20 AM

At first, I thought you were talking about what life is like after marriage! OH NO WAY, I DID NOT!

-- Posted by shannonhoon on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 11:00 PM

OMG! I found a pic of baby hummers in the nest!! http://howtoenjoyhummingbirds.com/andrea...

-- Posted by Youngest Child on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:10 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Thanks, Youngest! That is a really neat photo! How adorable!

Cool blog with lots of interesting info! I love to watch the hummingbirds fight and zoom around and chatter. Talk about big things coming in small packages!

I've heard that hummer eggs are the size of a pea.

-- Posted by Youngest Child on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:08 PM

MD, rule of thumb on your feeders (in case you didn't already know)...keep them out til October 15th. That's when the last of the little guys and gals will be leaving out. And, the deadline to file your taxes is the day they estimate them to come home again. Though, I usually put my feeders out around April 1st. Thanks for all that info MD!

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:05 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Oh, boy, dolphin, I'm glad you added this information! I forgot to mention it! Even though it appears that no birds are coming to our feeders this time of year, there ARE always stragglers who don't leave with the rest. How sad if the flowers and the feeders are gone, and the poor little guys have to leave for Mexico on an empty belly!!

MD< I saw a hummer this afternoon late in my zinnias, looking for dinner, I was outside a lot today and this is the only one I noticed.

At first I thought your topic was going to be concerning the BIG suv,,, Hummer I and Hummer II etc.

-- Posted by changedname on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 8:40 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Actually, a Hummer blog would be a very good idea, dexterite! Even though I will never in my life own such a gorgeous, ostentatious, over-priced, over-sized, gas-guzzling piece of automotive engineering, I would like to know what's going on with that industry. I still see them out on the roads occasionally. They're pretty intimidating!

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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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