Hummingbird Facts: History, Habitats and Habits

An introduction to the hummingbird, learn more hummingbird facts including the history of the hummingbird, food sources, habits and habitats of the hummingbird.

| July/August 1988

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    Commercial hummingbird feeders range from inexpensive plastic models to more costly handmade stoneware feeders. Or you can make your own from a small, clean glass or plastic container with a tight lid.
    DON OSBY
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    Rufous hummingbird.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    Lots of good things come in small packages.
    ILLUSTRATION: LITHOGRAPH BY JOHN GOULD/ARENTS COLLECTIONS, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS
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    Broad-billed hummingbird
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    Calliope hummingbird.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    Black-chinned hummingbird.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    Broad-tailed hummingbird.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    Anna's hummingbird.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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    Ruby-throated hummingbird.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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A close look at the history, habitat and habits of the North American hummingbird, including hummingbird facts such as feeding and gardening for hummingbirds. (See the hummingbird photos and homemade feeder photo in the image gallery.)

Hummingbird Facts: History, Habitats and Habits

Back in the days when I could get away with such things, I spent a summer thumbing my way across the country, stopping and camping wherever the mood (or exhaustion) struck. My meanderings eventually led me onto the hiking trails transversing Kentucky's magnificent Daniel Boone National Forest.

I had just settled back against a tree, munching the last of the blackberries I'd picked that morning and basking in the hot July sun, when a dark blur accompanied by an odd, soft whrrrrrr sound flashed a few feet in front of my face and stopped abruptly just to my left. I froze in midbite. Out of the corner of my eye, just barely within the farthest stretch of my peripheral vision, I could see a tiny, dusky-green bird, delicate as a whisper, perched on a branch no more than six inches from my ear.

I had never seen a hummingbird at rest before, to say nothing of one that close. Assuming that it was unaware of my presence, I sat motionless, hardly breathing, straining my eye sideways to watch the miniature creature as it sat on the twig, its tiny body lightly pumping up and down as though pulsating. Suddenly it was gone; with a whir it flashed to my right, zipped upward a few feet, whizzed down, hovered a moment at a honeysuckle blossom, then buzzed back to my left again, this time alighting on a branch almost directly in front of me, about two feet away. Catching the sun, the tiny body flashed brilliant green and red. The little bird cocked its head and looked me square in the eye, as if to say, "There. Now do you see me?"



A moment later it was off again, darting, whirring, poking its beak into more honeysuckle, then zapping back to the bush to regard me, then to the nectar and back to the bush—over and over for perhaps a full 10 minutes. Finally, just as abruptly as it had come, off it flew, leaving me alone again under a tree in the hot summer sun.

For reasons I can't fully explain, it was a special and enriching experience for me. Out of the blue, a creature of nature had come, fully giving its trust, and had allowed me to share its world. For a twinkling of suspended time, a spark of communication had linked us, and I had almost sensed what it is to be a tiny bird, wild and free.

Lisa
10/2/2018 9:39:00 PM

I live in northeastern part of pa and need to know when and if i should stop feeding humming birds


Frank
5/22/2018 7:18:11 AM

Why do I have a hummer continually resting on a rose branch in front of my window. It will go to the feeder. zoom off to the Lilac bush then come back to the rose branch. This goes on all day long.


Frank
5/22/2018 7:18:10 AM

I have a hummer perching on a small branch of a rose bush. It is there constantly, facing my kitchen window, It will go to the feeder than fly off to the lilac bush, and return to the rose bush within a few minutes. This goes on all day long. My question is why?







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