Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finding Clarity

When we first began, we had mixed results in our attempts to attract hordes of hummingbirds to the yard. We had a few Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, nothing more. The numbers of this species built a little, and we had an occasional Stripe-throated Hermit try to sneak in for a few sips. One Rufous-tailed was quite a bully, and he managed to intimidate the little guy and most of the other Rufous-taileds as well. We also had a Snowy-bellied, a Blue-chested once in a while, a couple of infrequent and irregular Long-billed Starthroats. And yet a friend who lives only about one-quarter of a kilometer as the hummer flies was getting swarms of hummingbirds, including at least 7 White-necked Jacobins. What was he doing that we were not? All his feeders were larger - could that be it? He was using the same proportions of sugar to water as we were - we confirmed that.

One day, I ran out of sugar and we bought some turbinado sugar from a little shop not far down the hill. Our hummer traffic plummeted - even the Rufous-taileds lost interest. The sugar we had started with (I just grabbed the first 5-pound bag of sugar I saw in the supermarket) produced sugar-water that was not quite clear; it had a slight beige hue. The turbinado mix was a notably darker tan. And apparently not very tasty. So the next sugar I bought, completely by accident, was a different brand than my original. It dissolved to make very clear sugar-water, and the hummingbirds voted with their tongues - they gave a five-star rating to Santa Rosa white. They drank toasts to us, fought with each other over it, glugged it down by the bucket-load, attempted to defend as many feeders as they could from all other hummers, and in every way, they have voiced their approval. The yard is alive with a chittering, chattering, squeaking, whirring, buzzing, quarreling mass of tiny feathered warriors.

If Marco leaves a feeder on the floor so the juice can warm up (he doesn't want to traumatize their tummies with ice-cold juice directly from the refrigerator), they will go down to the ground to get a sip. They dive into the outdoor sinks to make sure there's not a stray feeder in there. They detour a few feet into the kitchen to investigate the counter and sink area for any red items. We're now getting several White-necked Jacobins, an occasional Long-billed Starthroat, two Blue-chested Hummingbirds, a Violet-capped Hummingbird, two Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, and the regular mob of Rufous-taileds. (For a few weeks, we had a White-vented Plumeleteer. Then the Boa ate it.)

This is a mob of Rufous-taileds in the video. There are only 4 flowers on the feeder. Sometimes the fifth bird has to take a number. Extra points if you can find anything but a Rufous-tailed. We can't.

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1 comment:

  1. WOW! Looks like you have the right recipe and brand now...