Nature Watch: Hummingbirds

Dembinsky Photo Associates

Ready your sugar-water feeders, folks. Hummingbirds are buzzing back to the North this month, and to power their 80 wing beats per second and 1,260 heart beats per minute, the wee wonders scarf down twice their body weight each day. Four parts undistilled water to one part white table sugar–no turbinado, brown sugar, honey or red dye, please–will help buoy the birds’ nature-made buffet of insects and flower nectar.

Thanks to a tongue that extends as far as the bird’s beak is long, nabbing such nutrients is a cinch for a hummingbird. Spotting the Gene Simmons-like appendage in action, on the other hand–not so easy. But take heart. With a little scouting, you might be able to spot something just as cool: a hummingbird nest, which is about the size of half a walnut shell, crafted of downy flower fibers, moss and spider webs, then shingled with lichens. Adorable? Indeed. But keep your paws off. Though the nest may look abandoned, hummingbirds often build a new nest atop the old each season, and federal law makes swiping ’em illegal.

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