Jan
04
2009

Do Hummingbirds ever stop flying?

Hummingbirds (photo by teddy llovet - CC-BY)

Hummingbirds (photo by teddy llovet – CC-BY)

Yes, although it is a popular myth that they never land and spend their entire lives in flight (one that I believed while growing up). Hummingbirds perch on small branches, wires, and clotheslines, preening like other birds and will perch while drinking from a feeder (as in the photo).

When you think about it, it’s seems silly that such a myth could ever have taken hold – if it were true, how could those tiny birds manage to incubate their eggs while flying?

Hummingbirds have fascinated me ever since I got up close and personal with a female many years ago when I found one trying to get out of our garage. She kept hurling herself against the window, over and over again, apparently giving no thought to trying other options. I was getting as upset as she was so I slowly approached her and just reached out and picked her up. There she was, all 1/8 ounce (3.1 g) of her, in the palm of my hand, her little heart beating over 250 beats/min, and me scared to breathe for fear of hurting her. She was as calm as a cucumber and seemed to trust me.  I slowly walked over to the door and extended my arm out –  she hesitated for a breath and was gone, but she has stayed in my heart forever. How can such small, delicate creatures survive the rigors of their existence?

Take for example the Ruby-throats, who breed from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. They spend their winter in Mexico, Central America, and on the Caribbean islands and in late February or early March, they make an incredible non-stop crossing of the Gulf, which takes about 20 hours. From there, they make their way northward (following the bloom of spring flowers) until they arrive at their favorite nesting spots.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do return year after year because we had one male who liked the feeder that we had hanging on the back porch. One spring we decided to move it and when he arrived, he searched and searched the back porch for it.  That was incredible enough, that he would remember after all that time, but he never did forget and year after year we’d look forward to our little guy searching for his feeder (I think we counted 5 or 6 years).

Here is a homemade recipe for feeding your hummers:

4 parts water (4 cups)
1 part white cane sugar (1 cup)
(do not add food coloring)

Just mix well, boiling the syrup is no longer considered necessary. You can store any extra syrup up to two weeks in the fridge.  The syrup will last longer if hung in the shade rather than the sun, but either way, I like to rinse them out and refill with fresh syrup about every 3 days.

Visit the website Hummingbirds.net for not only lots of information about this incredible little bird, but I like to keep an eye on the Hummingbird Migration Map to give me some idea when to begin getting my feeders ready in the spring (they begin showing up on the U.S. by the end of February).

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4 Comments

  • czh says:

    I wonder where that myth that hummingbirds never stop comes from. I believed this for a very long time even though hummingbirds regularly visit my backyard. A friend pointed out how absurd this idea was and started pointing out perching hummingbirds in the branches of my trees and bushes. He still teases me about it.

  • Hummingbirds spend much of their time perched rather then in flight. You will usually see hummingbirds perched at your feeders when they are feeding. Hummingbirds will also spend some time perched to survey their territory and surroundings. They will also often perch while visiting a birdbath.

  • David says:

    refill your feeders every 3 to 7 days (depending on the temperature).What temperature?

  • hummer says:

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your response to my Quezi posting. It’s been quite some time since I wrote that piece and I’ve just edited it thanks to your question. To read it, please see from “Here is a homemade recipe for feeding your hummers:” on down.

    There is no set temperature for determining how long to leave the feeders out. Some people leave their feeders out until the syrup gets cloudy but I prefer to pick two days per week (Wednesday and Sunday) for refreshing ours, that way I’m less apt to forget about it.

    Good luck!
    Pat

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