There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds, and they are all native to the Americas. Many dwell in the tropics, where flowers (their primary food source) are abundant year-round.
Southern Arizona hosts more than a dozen species and is a migratory path as many head south to Mexico to spend the winter.
The most common hummingbird in the Valley is the Anna’s Hummingbird, named after an Italian duchess. These birds are year-round residents in the lower elevations of the state and will nest here between January and June.
Anna’s are larger than most of their species and the only hummingbird to produce a song. When moving from flower to flower, or during mating season, you can hear a sharp chirping noise coming from this hummer. Most other hummingbirds in the United States are silent.
You can identify these birds by their rose-colored throats and green metallic backs on the male and the light grey chest with red spotting on the throat with a green back and white-tipped tail on the female.
The male is very territorial and will perform extravagant aerial dives to impress a future mate. But once the courtship is over, he will leave the female to raise the young by herself.
Considering a hummingbird consumes approximately 50% of its weight in sugar daily, feeding five to eight times an hour, it’s a wonder how the mom keeps herself fed, let alone her babies.
If you want to help one of these hungry moms out, you can set up a hummingbird feeder inexpensively in your own yard. There are a variety of shapes and sizes available in pet stores and online for under $20.
Hang the feeder in an area not accessible to ants or pets but where you can view the birds when they come to feed. You don’t need to purchase pre-made nectar; you can make your own using this simple recipe: one part sugar to four parts water.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil, just enough to dissolve the granules. Cool and store it in the refrigerator. It should last about two weeks. Never use honey or artificial sweeteners and never use red food dye because it can hurt the birds.
At first, fill the feeder halfway, to see how much the birds will eat. If your birds don’t drink the nectar in a day or two, replace the food with a fresh supply. Wash the feeder with warm water every few days. If you see black spots in the feeder, it needs washing with hot water and mild soap to get rid of the mold that could possibly make a bird sick.
Once the hummingbirds in your area learn that there is a constant supply of fresh sugar water for them to enjoy, they might tell their friends, and you will have little flying guests over to dine every day.