The Hummingbird Is Getting to be a Pest

DSC_0272Humans aren’t all bad—not all the time, anyway. We may be the most parasitic plague and destructive mutants ever to evolve on Earth, but occasionally our actions can actually help certain other animals.

Sometimes it’s unintentional, such as when people are driving the sandy beaches here030 on the Pacific coast. Vehicles on the soft, upland sand can disrupt or damage endangered snowy plover nests, and when people drive too fast right along the surf they’ve been known to run over migratory shorebirds feeding there. But on exceptionally windy days, while driving the beach in search of pelagic birds, like murres or grebes, washed up after brutal storms and now in need of rehabilitation, I’ve noticed that the shorebirds take refuge in deep tire tracks, hunkering down in the only cover they can find (especially if beachcombers have trucked off all the driftwood logs).

While leaving deep tire tracks in the sand can’t really be considered a direct, intentional act of kindness for an animal, keeping fresh, thawed sugar-water out for the straggler humming bird we’ve had here all winter surely can. The poor bird must have stuck around this normally mild, coastal region, rather than migrating further south, because of the late-blooming honeysuckle and early blossoming salmonberry shrubs. But now an arctic air mass has encroached for a week, bringing with it temperatures in the teens and wind-chills in the single digits. Frozen ponds and snow coating on the Sitka spruces and western hemlock complete this late Christmas-card scene, but I can imagine, to a high strung hummingbird, it must feel like the ice age is back to stay.

Photo Thanks to Linda Delano

Photo Thanks to Linda Delano

My wife has been the one diligently keeping watch over the feeder, being sure to exchange it for a thawed one every other hour on these iciest of days. But at first light this morning, while the coffee was brewing, I went out in my bathrobe before filling the other birds’ feeders and replaced his liquid refreshment. As it was, the hummingbird didn’t show up at until after 8:00.a.m. It must have been hard to leave the thicket he was crouched in and face the frozen wasteland to find out whether or not the human handout had turned into a sugar-water popsicle. He was lucky this morning. Hardly a steaming cup of hot coffee, but it must have seemed like the nectar of the gods to someone with such a high metabolism—especially after a long night spent burning precious energy trying to stay warm.

Were I of a different mindset (i.e., not an animal lover) I might say, “That hummingbird is becoming a pest. It could be considered a safety hazard, or maybe even a road hazard. It could be an exotic or even an invasive species. It might be time to call for a cull, or even a contest hunt on him.” But, fortunately for him, I’m not like that.



13 thoughts on “The Hummingbird Is Getting to be a Pest

  1. Too funny. I thought we were the only ones so obsessed. We have 4 hummingbird feeders and keep them rotating constantly so there is always a warm batch available.
    But I think we get the Anna’s hummingbirds in the winter over here so there are quite a few, peering in the windows if the food is getting low. Sometimes I feel like a short order cook.

  2. We have several of Anna’s hummingbirds here–they winter over. I don’t know why Anna doesn’t feed them, but since she doesn’t, I do. Sometimes I remember to bring the feeder in at night, then put it out in the morning, Sometimes I fetch it in in the morning, defrost it, and put it out. I’m usually rewarded with a very quick arrival of a bird. Last winter, a hummingbird intercepted me a few footsteps out of my door, and started feeding while I was still carrying the feeder. Sometimes, I get buzzed when attending the feeder. On those occasions, I think about some of the rural areas of Washington that complain about those of us in western Washington, with no apparent comprehension of how heavily we subsidize them. Both groups are birdbrains, but one of them is more tolerable.

  3. I feed the hummingbirds, too. Here are some suggestions for keeping the hummingbird feeders from freezing up during the day. On my front porch, I hang the feeder about an inch or two below the front porch light which has a 60 watt bulb. At the back of the house under the eaves, I place a short string of outdoor low wattage Christmas lights in a 10 inch plastic hanging flower basket and then hang the feeder an inch above it. You can also attach hand or foot warmers to the bottom of the feeder to help keep it from freezing up.

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