I had one of many encounters with a hummingbird yesterday in my garden by the crocosmia (montbretia: family Iridaceae).
It was dusk and I was walking towards the garden gate on the north side of the house to lock it and here comes Mr. Anna’s Hummingbird, (males have the balaclava of red) with his iridescent, red head hovering in mid-air, his wings spread out as he fluttered in my path as if to say, “I dare you to come any closer.” We had this face off for about 45 seconds. I looked at him and he at me. I love these encounters, and to watch, on a daily basis, the ways and behaviors of these glorious birds.
Our resident hummers fight over the prime crocosmia real estate. They love the nectar in the red flowers. If you want to attract hummingbirds, plant crocosmia bulbs. These flowers, with sword-like foliage, are members of the Iris family. Their name comes from the Greek words krokos for saffron and osmē for smell.
Four species of hummingbirds, Anna’s, Rufous, Calliope, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds are found in Oregon. Anna’s is the only non-migratory species in Oregon.
As a Cornell University grad, of course I went to the world famous Cornell Lab of Ornithology (https://www.allaboutbirds.org) website to learn more about my hummer friends. On the site I was struck by the line, “With their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose-pink throats, they are more like flying jewelry than birds.” They can fly as fast as 32 miles per hour. Hummingbirds build nests that are about the width of your thumb.
Anna’s have a body temperature of around 107 degrees Fahrenheit – near fatal fever in humans. When it is cold outside Anna’s and many other species enter what is called torpor. Their breathing and heart rate slow, and their body temperature can fall as low as 48 degrees. When temps warm again they can become active once more in a few minutes.
The Cornell lab suggests setting out a hummingbird feeder with a mix of your own hummingbird food using one part sugar to four parts water. Don’t use honey or food coloring. Once you hang a feeder the hummers will find it. Change it frequently and in the winter bring it in to thaw it out. Anna’s hummingbirds will likely visit your feeders all year long.