Ever since I was a little boy I marveled at the aerial speed of hummingbirds as well as the ability to hover for so long. I used to read, in my animal fact books, about how they were the only bird to be able to fly backwards and how the bee hummingbird was the smallest bird in the world and how it could fit entirely in the eyeball of the largest bird in the world. It wasn't until I started watching birds close up that I realized the beauty of the iridescent jewels. I now love to have hummingbirds in the yard and am always interested in knowing more about what would attract them. Obviously, flowers and feeders, but not just any flower will do. We are going to explore some flowering plants, feeders and more which you can add to your outdoor space to increase the chance of having the little flying powerhouses visit you.
The Fake Flower
Hummingbirds will take nectar from just about any port in a flower. This makes it very simple to hang a feeder alongside your porch and have the little birds visit. There are a couple items to remember, when setting out a feeder, that are very literally life or death for the hummingbird. The red dyes that are found in the commercial nectars are not good for the health of these guys. The red coloring is used as a marketing gimmick to attract us humans to buy more of the hummer juice. In reality, sugar water is all you need and is made with a 4:1 mixture of water to sugar. This is exactly the same formula as most store-bought elixirs. They do sell clear nectar now which is perfectly fine to feed your guests. The other part of the equation here is, the feeder that the birds are attracted to. The most common are the four-flower, upside down bottle versions, which work very well. Don’t forget to look for a feeder with a moat so that ants are somewhat deterred. Try not to use the yellow cages or flowers like shown in the picture, it only makes a wasp problem worse. Yellow is an attractant for these bothersome freeloaders. It is always nice to have a perch as well, as it gives the bird some rest while restoring energy. Be sure to clean your feeder regularly as a neglected feeder may grow unwanted bacteria and harm the birds. Cleaning should happen twice a week in the warmer weather. See more on Hummingbird Feeders here. Feeders are a great way to keep track of which birds are visiting your yards and gardens. There are 5 common types of Hummingbirds in The United States and Canada and several places in the south have several more. Don't forget to keep a list on eBird!
Panama is a beautiful country with a multitude of interesting sights to take in during a visit there, with birding being one of their specialties. The country is about the same land area as West Virginia who has just over 300 species of birds that live or visit there. Panama is home to more than 978 distinct birds and the exciting realization that there are new species in some of the more remote areas. To put that in perspective, there are 914 recognized species in United States and Canada combined! There is a fantastic mix of North and South American birds with some being migratory and others that are resident species. There are also several endemic species which means that they can only be found in within the borders of Panama. The Panama Canal is something to see as the large ships are moving through the locks, but more importantly, you must see the jungles around the canal that have been protected as green spaces and are relatively untouched since the building of the canal. This buffer around the canal is an amazing place to see some of the lowland birds in this tropical country. Other excellent birding areas of the country are the mountains extending out of Costa Rica, the grasslands on the pacific coast, the mountain chain extending out of Columbia, the lowland forests and the vast shoreline on both the Pacific coast and the Atlantic Coast as well as desert climates complete with cacti.
The amazing colors of Panama's Birds are something that you notice immediately, with some of the birds looking like rainbows. There are several different species of Toucan, all with different painted bills, Trogons with their bright colors and pattern coded tails, Hummingbirds with the iridescent feathers only showing when the sun is hitting them just right and the Tanagers filling all colors of the spectrum in all corners of the country. There are birds with cryptic coloration so well camouflaged, they have white speckles on their wings to imitate the look of filtered sunlight sitting on a leaf. Some birds look so similar to a branch that they are undetectable even when passing by within a couple feet. The niches that birds fill here are also incredibly far ranging with that reason being, the diversity of the landscape. There are birds that dwell here that have a special symbiotic relationship with plant species as well and have adapted a bill that is so specialized it is only suited to collecting nectar from a handful of flowers. The beak adaptation matches the length and curve of a flower’s tube virtually making that bird the only pollinator. The are also the Antbirds that have forged a binding relationship with army ants and are found only in the presence of these fierce insects. The Frigate birds, “pirates of the sky” who are canal residents who's main source of food is by stealing from other sea birds. The overwhelming diversity of birds in this little country makes it a birders paradise.