Hummingbirds are in abundance in Sooke.

COLUMN: Feathered friends and flights of fancy

Gram for tiny gram, hummingbirds have to be the toughest little critters on the planet.

By Rick Stiebel

Gram for tiny gram, hummingbirds have to be the toughest little critters on the planet.

Any creature small enough to fit in the palm of your hand that weighs less than a penny and can handle a 20-hour, non-stop 800 kilometre flight across the Gulf of Mexico deserves a lofty perch atop the animal wingdom.

My first encounter with the magical miniscules occurred during a summer vacation on Quebec’s majestic Lake Memphremagog when I was six or seven years of age.

I was absorbed in a comic book when an iridescent flicker buzzed by my ear out of nowhere to feed on a potted plant less than a foot from where I was sitting.

The sound of those little wings whirring away between sips was almost as impressive as its lightning quick departure in reverse, the only bird that can pull off that backwards manoeuvre.

We’re blessed in Sooke to live in an area where a number of the 338 species of hummingbirds thrive year-round.

A feeder by our kitchen window and another on the back deck affords a variety of views that lets us watch them fight over seating from dawn until dusk, including in weather stormy enough to blow the hat off your head. It’s always an amazing sight that guarantees an admiring smile on our faces, whatever mood we’re in.

My wife has even taken to naming them based on their personality traits; meet Sippy, Big Gulp, Flitty and Gazy.

Although I am guilty of the occasional grumble and have been known to beak off about our sugar bill when I have to do a cleaning and refill after they tear through both feeders in a couple of days, we won’t go to bed before ensuring there’s enough liquid in each one to get our feathered family through the morning rush hour.

Joan even insists on bringing the feeders in when the temperature drops to freezing. Fortunately, that only happens in the winter when it’s still dark before she gets up, or she would probably set her alarm so she wasn’t late with their breakfast. Apparently, it’s their most important meal of the day, next to lunch, dinner and all day snacks.

We add the new batches of nectar only after it’s dark. It can be a little unsettling if you interrupt their  approach and they have to silently screech to a halt if your movements startle them on their approach to the buffet.

You don’t want to get on their bad side because they can live up to 10 years and may decide decide to drop you from their route if there’s better service down the road.

They prefer it if you boil the water first – four parts of H2O to one part sugar – and let it cool completely after dissolving the sugar.

A naturalist at Goldstream Provincial Park told me that’s the right recipe, and much better for them than the mysterious liquid of unknown origin sold in stores. Using a surgically sterilized whisk is optional, but a nice touch nonetheless.

The feeder’s bright colours attracts them, so there’s no need for artificial colouring. It’s best to place your feeders near flowers so the mighty mites have a variety of drive through and fast food options.

•••

Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.

 

 

Just Posted

Langford could soon be seeing its first retail cannabis store

Clarity Cannabis BC Ltd. gets province’s approval

OUR VIEW: Search and rescue organization needs to be examined

No organization should be immune to scrutiny

Emerging Sooke filmmaker takes spotlight with special award

Mary Galloway creates her own opportunities

Greater Victoria is a tough market, even for former homeowners

Seniors often squeezed out of the housing market due to limited income

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

Most Read