Story By Jill Lorie Hurst | Photos by Heidi Bowen
Hummingbirds. Colorful, diverse, independent…they are the perfect summer addition to our community. And it’s not all that difficult to get them to be a part of Ferndale’s summer celebration year after year.
As you read this, it’s a lovely time to be here. The front yard gar- dens are shaping up, the wind chimes are chiming and the memo- ries of slipping on the winter ice are fading. The big Michigan sky stays light late into the evening, the sunsets and thunderstorms are amazing. And there’s a possibility you will have the chance to get acquainted with those small, pretty visitors feasting on nectar out of various specially designed feeders or diving into delicious plants and bushes planted especially for their enjoyment. Yes, the hum- mingbirds are hovering in Ferndale. We, as good hosts, should en- courage them to stay.
Most hummingbirds arrive in our area in May and leave in Septem- ber, which right there makes them wise creatures. They fly upside down, know a good “sweet” when they taste one and never forget a reliable food source. My new heroes.
Some facts about those hovering hummingbirds:
– According to Native American tradition, they are the symbol of spreading life on the earth.
– Early Spanish explorers called them “flying jewels.”
– Five types of hummingbirds make their way to Michigan; the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the Broad-billed Hummingbird, the Green Violetear, the White-eared Hummingbird, and the Rufous.
– They can fly sideways and upside-down, at up to 35 mph.
– Most hummingbird species flap their wings from 50 to 80 times per second, and have heart rates as high as 1260 beats per minute!
– They do “hover” and perch because, although they have feet, they can’t really walk.
– Most are brilliantly colorful, but there are some albino humming- birds spotted every year.
– Their brain is 4.2 percent of their body weight.
– They remember every flower they encounter, can see and hear better than humans, but have no sense of smell.
– They use their W-shaped forked tongues to lap up nectar.
– They eat seven times an hour for 30 to 60 seconds.
– Their favorite color is red.
– They do indeed hum, due to the rapid beating of their wings.
– Hummingbirds are known as the “promiscuous species.” They do not form pair bonds at all. The male doesn’t help raise the babies. The female builds the nest all by herself, then generally lays two eggs.
– Every year, ruby-throated hummingbirds make a 500-mile, non-stop migration flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
– One species, the bee hummingbird, is the smallest bird in the world. Adults weigh less than a penny.
– They feast on the sweet nectar from gardens and the feeders especially set up for them, and on insects for protein, but because they are so tiny, their natural enemy is an insect: the Praying Mantis.
– They have a cake named after them. “Hummingbird Cake” is a spice cake with pineapple, nuts and cream cheese frosting. Southern Living Magazine said it’s their most requested recipe.
There’s a lot of information available on the web and at the library if you are interested in growing a hummingbird garden or putting out a feeder. A few basic tips:
– Plants and Flowers Hummingbirds Love: Milkweed, morning glories, lilacs, sage, snap dragons, bleeding heart, day lilies, delphinium, foxglove, fuschia, hollyhock, hosta and honeysuckle.
– Hummingbird feeders: Two cautions when you make or buy hummingbird nectar. Even though red is their favorite color, the red dye that is usually part of their nectar can make them sick. Also, do not use honey, syrups or artificial sweeteners. The best nectar is made of one part plain white table sugar (Do not use brown sugar, “sugar in the raw,” or turbinado sugar; the iron content can harm them) to four parts water. Bring mixture to a boil and stir for two minutes while it boils. Then remove from heat and once it has cooled it can be added to your feeder.
– Clean your hummingbird feeder every three to four days with either warm soapy water or white vinegar.
When I started researching this article, I typed in “Hummingbirds in Ferndale MI” and found that a band named The Hummingbirds will be performing here this summer. I look forward to hearing them and seeing what they have in common with their feathered, brightly colored counterparts!
Something else I read on a website called “World Of Hummingbirds” made me understand why hummingbirds are a great addition to Ferndale.
“Hummingbirds don’t read books on what they are supposed to do and tend to do what they want”.
Come hover with us in Ferndale, hummingbirds! You’ll feel right at home.