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ONE PART SUGAR, FOUR PARTS WATER

By Nic.Korte

   Many bird lovers know immediately what this essay is about: hummingbirds.  The recipe of one part white sugar to four parts water is what you need to fill your hummingbird feeders. They’re back!  A few have already been reported in the Grand Valley and more are on the way.  Hummingbirds are unique in many ways, such as being found only in the Americas.  Of some 300 species, Colorado commonly has only four with two known to nest.  In contrast, tiny Costa Rica, not even the size of half of Colorado, has more than sixty nesting species. So, if you want to experience the full variety of hummingbirds and those with names such as coquette, mountain-gem, sunangel and others; head for the tropics. 
    The most common hummingbird in the lower regions of the Grand Valley is the black-chinned.  The black-chinned, as with many male hummers, can be identified by its gorget—if seen well.  The original definition of a gorget was for armor or an ornamental scarf worn around the neck.  Thus, the gorget, or throat, of the black-chinned is black with an iridescent purple stripe at the bottom—if seen well. The light has to be just right. In the foothills and the mountains, the most common hummingbird is the broad-tailed. It has a rose-colored gorget which can appear black—if not seen well.  

   Unfortunately for identification purposes, the females, as shown by the black-chinned in the photo, lack brightly-colored gorgets. Instead, shape, behavior and location clues are often necessary for identification.  For many people, however, it is enough just to enjoy their feeding and fighting.  Possibly you have watched them fly high into the sky and descend in a power dive.  Those are the males showing off their colors and spirit—trying to convince females to mate with them.  That’s their job, mating, because they don’t help with nest building or rearing of offspring.  As for the fighting, hummingbirds are intensely territorial and seemingly spend more time fighting than feeding—even when there is abundant food.  
    Males showing off and strutting their stuff. Both sexes fighting all comers even when there is plenty of food.  No wonder so many people enjoy them, they act like humans.  (A particularly good overview of all things about hummingbirds can be found at this website: http://www.ask.com/wiki/Hummingbird?o=3986&qsrc=999.  Finally, don’t forget to bring your feeders in every few days and clean them to limit bacterial growth.)  {This post was written by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society.  Send questions/comments to nkorte1@hotmail.com]To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, such as weekly bird walks, please see our website at audubongv.org and “like” us on Facebook!]  
 

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