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Not All Hummingbirds Hum

Roni Freund Pete Freund Photography | 07/22/2018 | Blog, Leavenworth Cascade Foothills, Skagit Valley & Fidalgo Island, Snohomish River Valley, Wenatchee Columbia River Valley, Wildlife Viewing

Spring around the Cascade Loop brings many wonderful things from blooming wildflowers and blossoming fruit trees, to baby animals of all varieties. 

One of the favorite birds to migrate to the state of Washington are hummingbirds. Three species can be found from early spring until late fall when they migrate back to spend the winter in the tropics. Of course, there are exceptions, like A male Anna that stays around our place all winter. I wrap my feeder in Christmas lights in an attempt to keep it from freezing. 

Annas, Rufous and Calliope are the species that summer along the Loop. The Rufous are easy to identify, as both the male and female are a brilliant orange/copper color. The male has an iridescent red throat, and the female has a green back and orange flank. 

Annas and Calliopes can be difficult to tell apart. They have green and black bodies, and the males have magenta throats. Calliopes are the smallest bird in the United States, and they breed in the cool mountains of our area. Anna are larger, and found in higher populations than the other species around the Loop. 

Not all hummingbirds hum. The males wings emit a very loud buzz or hum, especially as they chase other birds away from their favorite flowers and feeders. The females make very little noise, and might come and go without you even noticing. They are active during daylight hours, and are attracted to the color red even if it is your hat. Residents who attract these birds to their feeders enjoy watching their playful antics. They can be very territorial, and I have spent hours watching a Rufous sit on a nearby tree branch, waiting for other birds to come to my feeder, so he can chase them away. He will take a quick drink, and head back to his branch to wait for the next victim. The male Rufous is the loudest of the three local species, and you can hear them humming from a distance as they zoom around their territory. 

Interestingly, while they have a long straw-like beak, they don't suck the nectar, but lap it with a long tongue. They also feed on tiny flying insects that they pluck out of the air or off spider webs. While hovering at a flower or feeder, hummingbirds flap their wings 70 times a second, and can flap up to 300 times a second when they are darting around, chasing and diving at other birds, when they can reach speeds up to 60 miles and hour. 

If you find yourself staying in a location with hummingbirds, spend some time watching them and enjoying their feisty spirit and beautiful coloring. 

Photos by Pete Freund Photog

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