Friday, February 04, 2005

If you hang it, they might come

When we moved in, I noticed a couple of hummingbirds flitting around the oak tree opposite our balcony. They move in a very distinctive (and to someone who didn't grow up with them around, a very un-birdlike) way; hovering and darting.

Hummingbird feeders are common, although there's 2 lessons to learn. Firstly, none of them are exactly attractive. I'm sure the birds like 'em well enough, but as far as human appeal goes there are two basic phenotypes: fru-fru or utilitarian. And secondly, it's not worth trying to buy them on-line; they're cheaper, but they're just bulky enough that shipping far outstrips any savings you make. If you're watching the dollars, you're stuck with what you can find in local shops.

Here's ours: slightly utilitarian, slightly fru-fru. Red, as most of them are: apparently hummingbirds find red terribly attractive. Yellow bee guards, as most of them are: apparently this is wrong, as bees are actually attracted to yellow. The manufacturers always want you to use their special hummingbird nectar mix, but it's a con: a basic sugar syrup is fine. And they always show feeders with red-dyed nectar: again unnecessary and generally adding colour seems frowned upon.

It went up on Monday night; first sighting of a feeding hummingbird Tuesday lunchtime; and we've had occasional visits since then. Hard to identify, as they move fast and it's difficult to identify colours when the bird's in silhouette, but I think mostly Anna's Hummingbirds: the most common species in California, and resident year-round. We should start seeing other species through spring as the migrations pass through.