Hummingbirds get scarcePublished 1:03pm Monday, July 1, 2013
I don’t have the large numbers of hummingbirds I once had in my area. Just three years ago, I had so many hummingbirds it was dangerous to go outside for fear that they and I might meet with some sort of terrible collision.
Last year, I was lucky if I had three or four birds. But this year, I am really worried, as I only have two birds — a male and a female. Their numbers are really down.
We all know the trials and tribulations these wee creatures face in their annual migrations. And how far they have to travel across the Gulf of Mexico to all those warm, exotic tropical places they go, flying at 30 miles per hour just 25 feet above land or water to get there and back again.
As with many small birds, losses during the nesting period are high. Many clutches of eggs are lost due to bad weather. If there is a drought, flower nectar can be slim, and adults and especially the “chicks” die of starvation. A cold spell cannot only take a toll on the babies, but adults as well. While in the tropics, there is predation from feral cats, rats and snakes. Here in North America, it seems this loss is two-thirds worse: Their nests are destroyed by a variety of nest robbers, such as blue jays, squirrels and snakes. And the fire ant has a dire role as well: They invade nests and destroy the nestlings. Even in a study nest, a brown-headed cowbird got in the act by replacing the two eggs with one of theirs.
In valiant defense attempts by mama — you know how we mothers are about our families — nest destruction occurs by owls, squirrels, snakes, birds and humans.
Adults are taken by frogs, praying mantis, dragonflies, spiders and even fish. A bass can nab a bird if it flies too close to the surface of the water. Adult bird death traps can include a spider’s nest, bristly seed heads, windows, mesh screens, cars and garages. And this does not cover deforestation, logging, mining, road and house building, pollution and pesticides.
In general, the life expectancy of hummingbirds is, in fact, good for such a small bird.
Most experts believe their average lifespan is three to four years. A hummingbird starts a family when it hits its second year of life, producing two to three clutches a year, so they produce enough young to maintain a healthy population.
So, til we meet again, dear gardening friends.
“A glittering fragment of the rainbow … a lovely little creature moving on humming winglets through the air, suspended as if by magic in it, flitting from one flower to another, with motions as graceful as they are light and airy.” — John James Audubon
Tags: Nancy Wiersma