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What is this fascination with hummingbirds that we seem to have in the spring? There are a reported 300 species of hummingbirds in the Americas of which most are to be found in the tropical areas. Is it their unique courting flights, or the fact, that they are the smallest of birds we see in North America?

They are a fearless sort, often times coming within just inches of you as you sit upon your patio, to capture the nectar we provide them. We sit and watch as they lower their long, bills into our tubular flowers, or our feeders, and are quite in awe of these little fellows who can suspend themselves in mid-air as they feed. They do put on quite a show, indeed.

We watch, fascinated, as they dip and swoop, courting the woman in which they wish to find love, flying through the air like an acrobat swaying upon his swing.
Hummingbirds prefer migrating by day as they fly low in the sky. When spring appears, the females will usually lay two, small, white eggs after she has courted. After mating, however, the male’s responsibility is done, and he takes no more action in the raising of the young.

The Species

Fred, aka, Archíldochus Cólubris, prefers to be called the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and lives east of the Great Plains of the United States. You can tell Fred from his mate, Ethel, simply for the fact that he sports a bright red throat, while his mate simply bears no color on her throat. You can tell the hummingbird is Fred by his high, squeaky chirping as he flies toward Ethel with his wings humming rapidly, which sounds melodious to say the least, to attract her. Fred is a character, indeed, and can be found hanging about flower gardens, and/or the woodlands.

Ricky, Selásphorus Platycércus, aka, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, prefers the Rockies for his homeland. You can distinguish Ricky from other species for he sports a green crown and tail, and like Fred, has a solid red throat. Lucy, on the other hand, does not have the luxury of the red throat feathers, but she does not mind. She has ways of attracting Ricky, and he quickly displays his mating ritual with his pendulum-like courting flight when he spots her among the flowers and trees. Lucy may seem familiar to some for it is difficult to tell her from the Rufous, or Allen's species of hummingbird.

George, the Calliope Hummingbird, or Stéllula Callíope, is the smallest of the United States species of this bird, and is uncommon in the western mountains. George is the only hummingbird that sports colored throat feathers that will form streaks of dark purple along his throat and can be seen very well upon a light background. Gracie, much smaller and slimmer than the above-mentioned species because of her shorter tail is often confused with the Rufous and Allen hummingbirds, but she does not care. She has eyes only for George.

Anna's Hummingbird, aka, Calýpte Ánna, is most time found in the area west of the Sierras. You can distinguish Spencer by his red throat and forehead while Kate's green tail seems to have been dipped in white. She also carries a few spots of red upon her little throat, which seems to attract her mate, Spencer. Kate is attracted to Spencer, most wholeheartedly, for he is the only California hummingbird with a real song as he chirps, which is quite melodious to her.

David is most common in the western mountains and we know him by the name of the Black-chinned Hummingbird, simply for the fact, that he is the only bird with a black-feathered throat. Aka, Archílochus Alexándri, David can also be distinguished from others by the purple stripe above his white belly. Téa, his mate, simply does not have the honor of a colored throat. Téa is found mostly in southern Arizona and California and seems to be restricted to these areas.

Will, the Costa's Hummingbird, Calýpte Cóstae, is most commonly found in the Southwest and sports a purple head and throat and long side feathers. Grace, however, is hard told from the Black-chinned hummingbird and is slightly larger than the Anna's bird, and often sports red specks upon her throat.

Chandler, Rufous Hummingbird, also known as Selásphorus Rúfus, is a migrant of the Western coast and is often found in Oregon, Washington and parts of Canada. Chandler sings a subdued type of humming as he dips and dives toward the female, Monica. But make no mistake, she loves his loud whine as he buzzes about her. The couple both sport a wide tail, however, Monica appears to have some of her tail feathers dipped in white at the tips.

Allen's Hummingbird, aka, Selásphorus Sásin, is found on the coast of California. Bill, our only red-throated hummingbird, dives from a twenty-five foot arc into a dive of about one hundred feet to attract Hillary. Bill sports a rufous tail, green back, and green feathers upon the top of his head. Hillary is similar to Rufous species, as well as the immature, Allen male, and it seems they can only be distinguished from this other species in breeding season.

Our Florida, Cuban Emerald, male, Elliott is found on the east coast and the Keys, sports a black forked tail and wears a bright green upon his belly. His mate, Maya, sports the same forked tail, but, like all females, has a white belly, but for her four inch size, this does not seem to matter to our visiting guest. Also known as Chlorostìlbon Ricródii, Elliott and Maya, can be found in all seasons.

The Lucifer Hummingbird, aka, Calothórax Lúcifer, is quite a cute little fellow. Andrew, the male of the species, is the only purple-throated bird with a green crown and a forked tail. Sarah is the only female that has no curve in her bill, but Andrew knows this sets her apart from the others. They are rare breeders however, and can be found in Chisos Mountain, Texas and Arizona.

Eúgenes Fúlgens, the Magnificent Hummingbird, can be found in the Arizona Mountains to the Chisos Mountains in Texas. Carmine can be recognized by his green throat, and purple crown, as well as his large size, all of five inches. Shirley can also be recognized by her large size, as well as her darkened bill and the slight white tips of her broad tail.

The Blue-Throated Hummingbird, aka, Lampórnis Cleménciae, could be found mostly in northwest Mexico. Mike is of large size, about five and one-quarter inches, and can be recognized by his blue throat feathers and his long black tail that is also white at the tips. Carol, on the other hand, does not sport the brilliant blue throat feathers, but does carry the long, black tail and white tips of her mate, Mike.

Steven, our Violet-crowned Hummingbird, is known as, Amazília Vióliceps, is well known for his purplish crown and white throat feathers. Kim, his mate, simply has a lighter green crown upon her tiny head. This couple can be found in the Guadalupe Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains, and Arizona.

The Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Amazília Yucatanénsis, is quite handsome indeed. John, with his orange bill and large size, can be recognized from his Texas counterparts by his green throat feathers. He and his mate, Abigail, can be found in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas where they prefer woods and thickets.

Broad-Bellied Hummingbird has a dark body with an orange bill. Abraham, Cynánthus Latiróstris, also has a forked tail and usually is around 3 inches in size. Mary, his mate, and Abraham can be found mostly in central Arizona and southwest New Mexico, but rarely found in Texas.

Our White-Eared Hummingbird, Hylocháris Leucótis, can be recognized by the white ear stripe upon his head. Ike, like Mamie, has a squarish type tail with white tips. While Ike has green throat feathers, Mamie can be found sporting a spotted white throat. The couple has been spotted in the southeast mountains of Arizona at their summer home.

Plants that attract hummingbirds

It is a well known fact that flowers attract hummingbirds, but did you know that trees, vines, and shrubs could also attract these gorgeous, little creatures? Well known trees that attract these lively, hummingbirds are the Mimosa, Flowering Quince, and the Azalea. Other trees and shrubs known to attract them are Lantana, Manzanita and Turk's Cap.

We all love Morning Glories and why not the hummingbird? Plant a few of those lovely tubular flowers in your garden to attract the birds. Honeysuckle will do them quite nicely also for feeding. Since birds do not really have a sense of smell, it is the color of the flowers that attract them, so choose well in planting flowers for your feathered friend.

Flowers, such as, Columbine, Four-O-Clocks, Lupine, and Impatiens are also known to attract hummingbirds. Try Fuchsia and Petunias also, if the above seem not to lure them toward your garden.

Feeding your hummingbirds

Hummingbird bills are long and tapered, and need a good feeder in order to attract them, for they eat continuously throughout the day, about every 10-15 minutes intervals. Try placing feeders, preferably with red colors, intermittently about your patio or garden and before you know it, your visitors will come. Known for their wonderful memory, the hummingbird, a creature of habit, will return year after year to your home. They especially love sitting upon clotheslines, so I would place a feeder somewhere close to the line, as close to the shade as possible to avoid souring your home made nectar of sugar water.

Bathing

Hummingbirds, like all birds, enjoy a good bath. Try keeping a sprinkler in the yard and in the late evenings, long before sundown, turn the sprinkler on to attract your little friends. They love to preen. They are also known to sun bathe and are a delight to watch during this time.

Year after year, Fred, Ethel, Lucy, and Ricky appear in my yard, and as I sit upon the patio, I listen to their chirps and batted wings with delight. The figure eight courtship flight of the hummingbird is a wonderful experience to behold, and often times, a good fight can be seen, as hummingbirds are very territorial little birds.

So, plant some flowers, hang feeders, and provide a good sprinkle once in a while, and you will find your friends will give you hours and hours of joy and put a smile upon your face. Look for a hummingbird coming soon to your home, and enjoy.