Sip, head back, chirp | Front Porch | Indy Week

Columns » Front Porch

Sip, head back, chirp

by

comment

Especially when the rains hold off and there is not much dew on the ground or the leaves in the morning, the hummingbirds come and visit our feeders. Since we had our kitchen remodeled, the one little window set darkly between cabinets has been replaced with three big windows and a great place to view the feeders, which are right outside the window, just above the sink. On this summer afternoon when I am cutting peppers for tonight's dinner (cornbread with onion, pepper and yogurt spread over it) it is hot and dry and the little birds buzz in and out. Or, the little bird? Hummingbirds are said to be very territorial, and maybe it is the same bird that keeps coming back--it is hard to tell differences between them. Usually, when there are three or four around the feeders they are flying at each other; they do not perch at separate feeder holes and leave each other be.

Our friend Martha gave us a feeder. It was successful, and on the theory that more feeders would attract more birds, I bought another one and put it up about three feet from the first one. One is about 6 inches across with three little feeder holes, the other is about 8 inches with five holes. The birds always seemed to go to the smaller feeder, which I had more off to the side, with the bigger one directly over the sink. So, a few weeks ago I switched them, thinking that if they liked the smaller one better, I would put it where we could see it better. Sure enough, they continue to come to the smaller one. It is always a pleasant surprise, they pop into our lives suddenly, sip some nectar, then buzz off. I drop my knife or washcloth and stare at their tiny bodies suspended between the blur of their tiny wings.

Sometimes when they are feeding and hovering they will emit little chirps, almost like a cardinal's clicking call, only quieter. Sip, head back, chirp, sip, head back ... one bird can keep this up for several minutes. Then it will disappear, to gobble up the rich harvest of bugs that are their main diet. Lately, they have taken to perching on the telephone wire about 10 feet away, keeping an eye on the goodies, I suppose. When the hummingbird is perching it looks like a tiny wren, with a compact, rotund body. Birds are the closest non-reptile descendants of the dinosaurs, scientists say. How did these "little flying dinosaurs" evolve from those big lizards? Must have been a miracle.

This afternoon, I was working at the sink and a hummingbird buzzed up to the little feeder, now almost empty. The bird hovered near one of the holes, dipped its long beak all the way to the little bit of liquid at the bottom of the feeder, pulled its head back, then jabbed back in. Three feet away, the other feeder was still almost completely full, but the little bird persisted in trying to drink from the smaller one. OK, if you insist, I thought, and mixed up some more red sugar water and walked outside to rinse out the little feeder and refill it. As I came back inside to the sink after putting the ladder away, the bird was already making his first approach to the feeder and savoring the fresh nectar. Whatever scent I left on it must not be enough to scare them away. I love it that they keep coming, and never tire of watching them.

Add a comment