While walking my son to the bus stop recently in the typical Seattle gloom, I saw a hummingbird, chittering away on a branch with a distinct air of complaint – how’s a little bird to stay warm in this?
Over the last few decades some Anna’s hummingbirds have begun to over-winter in Seattle. Seattle Audubon attributes this development to hummingbird feeders and exotic plants that supply nectar for them throughout the winter. The hummers manage to survive on these resources and the occasional insect they can hunt up. I don’t know, seems to me that staying in Seattle where summer doesn’t come til July isn’t the smartest choice for a little bird with such a high surface area to volume ratio.
Listening to the hummer, I wondered if someone in the area had a feeder and realized that even though it is only mid-February, plenty is in bloom within a 1/2 block radius for that complaining hummingbird to choose from – a pink rhodie in full bloom on the opposite corner along with a Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ and up the street there’s a Pieris japonica (Lily of the Valley bush) and a hybrid mahonia. Flowers year-round – there is the up side to Seattle’s climate.
Seattle Audubon suggests putting Christmas lights around hummingbird feeders when we have cold spells to keep the nectar from freezing ( a fine idea – less labor intensive and more festive than dragging the feeder in periodically to defrost). I think I’m going to make a nest out of Christmas lights, lined with moss, to go with the bird feeder; I’ll call it Spa Hummer. Maybe I’ll get a hummingbird to hang around, stop complaining and relax. I feel confident it’ll be the only hummingbird sauna and feeding station in the neighborhood.
For more on a close encounter with an Anna’s hummingbird in winter check out Susan Vernon’s article in the San Juan Islander. Rainyside Gardeners also supplies a long list of plants that hummers have been seen to visit.