August 26, 2008
Irwin Co. - Many people want hummingbirds to visit their homes, but often find it hard to attract them, and even harder to entice them to stay.
Chuck Parrish knows how. Literally dozens of the little birds zoom around his colorful, nectar-filled, red bottles that hang from a child's swing set frame.
"It's like this all the time, from morning to early evening," says Chuck as the birds fly past him at about 25 miles-per-hour enroute to one of six bottles with his red elixir.
If you're lucky, you might hear the hum of their wings as they come by. That's how they get their name because of the hum of their wings.
"It's nothing special. I follow the manufacturer's directions, add sugar and water," says Chuck, as he mixes a gallon of the energy drink in his kitchen.
His six bottles of liquid nourishment hang quite close to a wooded area. Between feedings, the birds perch on small limbs. Then, fly back for more fast food. One other thing Chuck learned: He must keep a steady supply of liquid nourishment or the birds will fly somewhere else to eat.
His interest started in the mid-80s when he didn't know if any of the birds were near-by, but he wanted to find out or sure.
So, he tried an experiment by hanging a bottle of nectar to see.
"I had no idea there was a hummingbird out there," says Chuck.
Sure enough, a few took him up on his free liquid offer at first..
"They start coming around the first or second week in March," says Chuck.
Perhaps hummingbirds somehow compare notes in Mexico, Central or South America, where they overwinter, about good eating locations in Georgia. If they do, Chuck's place must rate at the top because he offers unlimited, fresh nectar and safe place to live and raise families.
"The numbers have greatly increased," says Chuck and it's evident by the dozens of humming birds that stop and drink his nectar time and time again.
They chirp, hover and zoom around the six bottles filled with a red liquid that contains vitamins, minerals and a hefty amount of sugar mixed with tap water.
"They are so tiny. That amazes me," says Chuck. The Ruby-throated hummingbirds that Chuck feeds weight about three grams each.
Chuck believes they know he's a friend and don't fly off when he comes near the bottles. In fact, he just the opposite behavior. He believes they gather around.
"I think it's their way of saying thank-you," says Chuck. "I can't imagine a creature eating so much everyday," says Chuck who finds they drink about a gallon-and a-half of nectar in three days.
Hummingbirds also eat bugs for protein and purposely drink lots of nectar to gain weight for a special flight that happens in mid-October.
"Some of these hummingbirds fly to Mexico where they have to fly across the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 700 miles. They have to double their weight with body fat. That's a non-stop flight. No updrafts to help them along," says Chuck with a little concern in his voice.
He feels sad when they leave.
"It's just a lost feeling. It's like a friend or friends have gone away," says Chuck.
No more zooming, hovering or chirping, only the sound of the wind in pine trees for six months until they return.
"I feel sad when they go away," says Chuck, but he has hope. "We expect more hummingbirds next spring. We've already brought more quart bottles."
He'll have a feast upon their return because when you feed hummingbirds consistently, they will come back.