If you have tray feeders in your backyard, the joys of watching hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) congregate around them are hard to deny. If you find that these wee birds often grace you with their presences for weeks at a time, only to suddenly and inexplicably disappear, you're not alone.
Caring for Offspring
If hummingbirds showed up at your home in the spring only to vanish at some point in the summer, it could mean that they're females fulfilling their maternal duties. If they're too busy diligently scouring the landscape for wee insects, they just might not have the chance to return to your feeders. Remember, small insects make excellent sources of protein, which are vital for rapidly developing chicks. When hummingbirds reemerge in your yard, it usually indicates that their offspring now are fully able to fend for themselves.
Mature male hummingbirds frequently perform disappearing acts of their own, also often in times of nesting. If you happen to be in the vicinity of a male hummingbirds' individual turf, the lack of male hummingbirds in your yard could mean that he "forced" them all to leave. Male specimens can be extremely truculent to one another about what they believe to be their own. Hummingbirds, as a group, are extremely turf-oriented birds.
End of Summer Encore
If you miss the company of charming hummingbirds in your backyard, don't fret. They almost always come back for encore performances, even if they're somewhat brief ones. The vibrant birds might come back to your residence at the end of August, while they're in the midst of migration -- en route to their trusty cold weather haunting grounds. At this point in the year, the hummingbirds might linger around your tray feeders for hours on end.
Attracting the Birdies
If you're eager about feeding hummingbirds, you can do your part to make your backyard as inviting to them as possible. Introducing a variety of their favorite plants often does the trick. Some of the plants hummingbirds find appealing include coral honeysuckles (Lonicera sempervirens) and cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis). The presence of these plants might not stop your hummingbirds from disappearing for awhile, but they'll definitely make the little guys extremely happy -- and satisfied -- while they are around. Make sure your tray feeders are always clean and mold-free. Mold can be extremely perilous to hummingbirds and their offspring. It can be fatal, so take the risk seriously.
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds: Feeding Birds
- Star Tribune: A Summer of Hummingbirds
- Audubon California Kern River Preserve: Feeding Hummingbirds
- Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center: Hummingbirds
- The Bird Watching Answer Book; Laura Erickson
- Defenders of Wildlife: Basic Facts About Hummingbirds
- Animal Planet: Hummingbird
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Archilochus Colubris