Looking at a Hummingbird

It's so cold today, with a high wind warning in effect, that only my thickest down jacket can keep me warm outside. So how do the hummingbirds survive? I've seen both species that live here in Western Washington, the Anna's Hummingbird (pictured here at my feeder), which used to only live in California, and the Rufous Hummingbird that migrates to Mexico for the winter. I must be part Rufous Hummingbird, as a few months in the tropics sounds perfect to me right now.


The handyman who looks after our rental home told me he has noticed Anna's Hummingbirds have begun to stay in Port Townsend all winter for the past few years. I investigated and found that they have expanded their range as far north as British Columbia, maybe because people like me set out hummingbird feeders, maybe because others planted gardens with flowers that provide the nectar they need all year round, or maybe because of climate change. 


A few years ago in Australia I met a local birder who took me out early one morning to identify dozens of colorful local birds. He told me his dream was to see hummingbirds in the Americas. Until then I hadn't realized they don't live anywhere else in the world but here.  


It seems to me it's our responsibility to keep these gorgeous little creatures alive. Their helicopter flight skills, feathers that glow in the sunlight, and quirky personalities are incredible to witness. It's so easy to feed hummingbirds: mix one part white sugar and four parts boiling water (no food coloring) and cool before filling the feeder, then keep the feeder clean, adding new sugar-water every week or so. I marvel at any hummingbird's ability to survive the winds here with gusts up to 50 mph, and the occasional hail and dusting of snow. They only have their own tiny iridescent feathers, not even a down jacket like mine.


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