Actually, I learned this summer that hummingbirds don’t really stand much, and that they can’t walk. Their legs aren’t strong enough. Instead, they sort of hop, using their wings for support.
Summer is drawing quickly to a close; school starts for us next week. Not much at all about this summer has gone as I’d expected. My kids have been home, and I’ve been working from home. We’ve been so busy, and the time has gone by quickly. I somehow imagined having time to work on projects together, to read with them every day, to work on skills like telling time and measuring. And we’ve done some of that – a little bit.
My 5-year-old has spent much of his summer on his Lego projects, and he’s also spent a lot of time doing chores to earn money for new sets. He spent two days counting the change from his piggy bank into 40 piles, each equal to $1.00, so that he could get the Lego Iron Man 3 Malibu Mansion set, which he has built and taken apart at least once a day since.
My 6-year-old has come up with a variety of projects of her own, most recently “mixing chemicals,” which primarily involves getting various bottles out of my bathroom (shampoo, nail polish, lotion, etc.) and mixing the substances together to see what happens, and most often, to see what it would end up smelling like.
But there has been one topic that we’ve all learned quite a bit about this summer: hummingbirds.
I knew hummingbirds could be found in our area, but we rarely saw them. So in June we bought a hummingbird feeder and hung it in our backyard where we could see it from inside the house. It has turned out to be a very popular gathering place! We’ve counted at least five different hummingbirds there on a regular basis, and countless wasps who apparently also like the sugar water inside. Fortunately, the hummingbirds aren’t shy about chasing them off.
In fact, hummingbirds, we’ve learned, can be quite territorial, and they will fight each other off to get to their sugar water. At the end of the video above, you can just see a second bird swoop in and scare off the first.
From our dinner table, we could see them at the feeder. They came to visit every evening.
And every evening, as we watched them, the kids would come up with new questions, the answers to which we could often look up on my phone on the spot. (Yeah, Google and my smartphone!)
- How big are their eggs? About the size of a jelly bean
- How big are there nests? A little bigger than a ping pong ball (We found one in our neighbor’s tree.)
- How fast do their wings flap? Depending on the species, from 12-80 times per second!
(My 6-year-old counts time in seconds by saying “1 alligator, 2 alligator” etc. So, if you ask her, a hummingbird can beat its wings 12-80 times in one alligator!)
The birds have gotten used to us too. At first they were very skittish, and we’d have to stand as still and quiet as statues in the house or they’d zip off and away. Now, we can stand right next to the feeder, and they fly right up. When I last refilled it, I took the feeder in the house to rinse it out and add another batch of the sugar water, and then I took it back outside to hang up. Before I could get it on the hook, a bird flew up so fast right next to my head, buzzing very loudly in my ear, before turning and darting away, bouncing off my hand in the process. Up close and personal with nature!
Recently the kids asked: When do hummingbirds fly south for the winter? Soon, it turns out, at the end of August or September. Various websites have suggested leaving the food out for them until it’s been two weeks since we’ve seen them around. They need to eat a lot in preparation for their migration. And they’ve been sucking down the sugar water like crazy! But in the last two days, barely any of it is gone, and we’ve only seen one little guy there in the evenings. I’m a little concerned that he’s still so small; hopefully he still has time to gain some weight and make the trip south, to close out his summer just as we’re doing to ours.