[Tweeters] Have been out of town quite a bit for work recentl...

David Hutchinson flora.fauna at live.com
Tue Mar 3 18:10:30 PST 2009

Have been out of town quite a bit for work recently and came back to be amazed at the number of good questions and intelligent comments about the behavioural ecology of our two local hummingbird species. Hoping not to be repetitive, here is another omnibus edition on hummers. First just about all hummers are associated with wet!! Annas in Calif as winter rains bring on the flowering of fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, Annas in PNW likewise because of flowering currant and salmonberry, Black-chinned in riparian habitat of sonoran areas,Costa's near desert washes and Spring outflows. Of course tropical and Andean hummingbirds can get wet year-round, hence a cycle of continuous bloom
Secondly, there are several flower families in the western US that have a pollination relationship with hummers e.g. paintbrushes, honeysuckles, columbines; salvias and sages in the Lamiaceae, currants and gooseberries in the Grossulariaceae. Perhaps the best plant family, in my estimation, for Annas and Rufous in the coastal states is the Ericaceae, which are nectar-rich and widespread e.g. Madrona,Manzanita, Salal, Kinnickinick and the vacciniums. It is important to remember that hummers are opportunists, so though they may have feeding relationships with red flowers, they visit any colour of flower if it is available when they need it. White flowers are just fine with them, partic himalayan blackberries and obviously they don't need to be tubular. Feeders also don't strictly need to be red in colour, for they will visit a clear liquid feeder if they know it is a good nectar source.The species I am most familiar with, Annas is quite insectivorous, visits sap and spider's webs, probably for small insects, drinks water at fountains and picks up trace elements from walls and roads.
As to watching hummingbird nests, one should not stand within ten or fifteen feet of them or they might desert. However they do seem tolerant of lighting. If you have a hummingbird feeder up during the winter Annas will visit during the night if it is lit by a lamp. Some feeder people in very cold weather would keep a heat lamp near a feeder in the garage. Annas would then come and go all night if able. David Hutchinson

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