Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alfred and Betty

I love summer. I love spring, fall and parts of winter, too. The only season I'm not so fond of is January, if you know what I mean.

This summer has been particularly fun - all because of the addition of a hummingbird feeder to our back yard. Who knew?

I didn't put the feeder out until the middle of summer because, well, you know how it goes, busy stuff was happening. At the time I knew very little about hummingbirds but I'd heard that it can take some time for the birds to find a feeder, so I had no expectations. But within the week, we saw some birds flit to the feeder and then away quickly. We frequently heard the hum of wings but couldn't place where the birds were. And then they started to take a drink or two, and then a few drinks. Before we knew it, some began to sit on the feeder and eat for a long time.

The most agressive bird was the smallest and he had the loudest wings. You could hear him coming from a house or two away if you were listening. He would swoop in, claim his territory and flit his wings until the other birds flew away. For obvious reasons we named him Alpha. Soon we noticed that there was another bird he kind of hung out with when he wasn't chasing her away; we originally named her Beta. Those names transitioned into Alfred and Betty, and as crazy as it was we grew very fond of them. Really, it isn't smart to become attached to wild animals but we couldn't help ourselves. Via the Internet, we learned enough about the birds to think we were correct in designating Alfred as male and Betty as female. We also learned that they were Black-Chinned hummingbirds.

Other hummingbirds visited the feeder but it was mostly Alfred and Betty. Betty was the most curious and least jumpy of all of them. She was a chirper, too. She'd take a drink, chirp, take a drink, chirp, etc. She'd sit on a wire, turn her head to the right and chirp, left and chirp, etc. She'd also fly to about two feet in front of us and inspect us; she was particularly interested in our dog and spent a good amount of time chirping at her. The dog, who is small and fluffy, would just look at us with wide-eyed question.

About a week ago, we stopped seeing and hearing Alfred. The good news -- we read that males typically leave earlier than the females for their "winter vacation" in Mexico. We hope that's what happened to him. After Alfred left, Betty still fed but she was very quiet and not as curious. Another female (well, we think) was also feeding with Betty. They both sucked down lots of food and the new one seemed to start flying slower, as though she was gaining weight. In fact, in our studies we found that hummingbirds can gain up to 1/3 their body weight to prepare for the migration. If any other bird did that, they wouldn't be able to fly.

Anyway, as of yesterday, nothing. They seem to be gone. The food level in the feeder is not moving, when before I was probably re-filling it every third day or so. Since I know it is ridiculous to say how much I'm going to miss them, I'll just say that I hope their journies are safe and that they all come back next year, and bring lots of friends.




  1. Great shots! Did you make their food yourself (sugar water??) or did you buy a mix?

  2. Thank you. Bought a mix: GardenSong Clear Hummingbird Food. Ingredients say: 100% sucrose.