I learned to watch birds on New Year’s Day, 2012. Jenny and I went to the annual Bird Count in Central Park, a frigid but sunny morning outing, on which we counted a goodly number of feathered friends, including two different types of woodpeckers. Woodpeckers? Yup, New York has a bunch of kinds.

Then, last spring we went to a ranch in Patagonia, AZ and saw some amazing critters, including my very first hummingbirds. I love these birds. They come in so many varieties and they do everything the cartoons say the do. They dart and hover, their wings blurring a zillion miles an hour, and they sip nectar.

Which is where I come in.

As soon as I heard that there was even the slightest possibility of hummingbirds in LA, I headed to Home Depot where they had a whole wall of attractive feeders shaped like giant flowers and such. I bought some bird Kool-Aid and a huge black iron shepherd’s crook to hang the feeder from. Then I raced home, mixed up the nectar, plunged the crook into the flower bed beneath our kitchen window and hung the feeder.

And waited.

Several days later, Jenny and I were having our tea in our lawn chairs and I complained that a) I had no idea how I was supposed to let the local hummingbirds know I had set up this lovely feeder and b) it seems the lovely feeder was leaking as the level of Kool-Aid seemed to be dropping a little bit each day.

As I was griping, Jenny tapped me on the knee and pointed.  A bright green hummingbird,  like something out of a sci-fi film, was hovering by the feeder. It gingerly approached, and slid its needle beak into one of the white plastic flowers that circle the rim. I watched in mute wonder. Then as quickly and quietly as he’d come, the hummingbird darted away and soared over our roof.

“Tell all your friends,” I shouted as he disappeared down the street.

It seems he did.  I have now seen a half-dozen different colors of hummingbirds. I’ve seen them sitting on or phone wires. I’ve even seen two of them fighting, clashing in the air with fluttering wings and puffed chests, then chirping and squawking till one was driven off and the other settled at the feeder. Fighting hummingbirds! Like tiny iridescent battle helicopters over a Taliban outpost!

22 thoughts on “Nectar.”

  1. That was a good one, Danny. I live in Austin, TX and I planted a honeysuckle vine in the backyard so I could watch the hummingbirds. They come in the early evening, along with lots of wild finches. My cat, Gus, and I watch them out the back window. They are magic.


  2. Hi, Danny, don’t buy the birdie koolaid….quickly make your own as you make your tea.
    In a measuring cup put 1/4 cup of sugar and then fill to 1cup level with boiling water. Stir with a spoon and the sugar will dissolve. Let it cool and then pour it into the feeder! Don’t add any color…the birds don’t care…they love it plain. Enjoy the birdie buffet crowd!


  3. I love hummers and for the past several years have had nesting pairs in my yard. I do hang a feeder right in front of my kitchen window, but also have an abundance of flowering plants for them to enjoy. Twice now I’ve been able to watch the babies hatch and take their first flights. Such a thrill.


  4. Hi Danny. Being a BIG fan and lover of all birds, the hummers are truly a special treat for humans. Don’t you wish you had all that energy?! I’m writing to tell you that there’s a “World’s Best Hummingbird Feeder” out there that you might try. We’ve used many of the “other ones” leaky, buggy, messy, and find the above mentioned are better than the rest. We buy both sizes, 8 and 32 oz, at The Birdcatcher in Julian, CA. They don’t have an online store anymore, but I binged the feeder and found this site for you to check out. Happy birding! Michaelanne H. Gephart, CCO, CEO Flossie’s Professional Machine Quilting San Diego, CA


  5. You are like a little kid landing in California or should I say EARTH for the first time reveling in all the beauty you’ve never seen before. Cute! You don’t need cool aide just plant some flowers, they will come! In my Northern California back yard I too enjoy watching the hummers. They come to my window, hover, and watch me watching them too! We have a great relationship. Something I’ve taken for granted my whole life having been born and raised here!


  6. We used to sit on the porch swing in NC and the hummingbirds would buzz us on the way to the feeder. When one flies by a few inches from your head it sounds like a big bee. They are quite territorial and will fight of all comers to “their” feeder.


  7. I love Hummers too,Danny. I mix 4 to 1 water to sugar. Boil water, add sugar boil 2 minutes and let cool. They don’t really need the red stuff. The best feeder I found is one with the cylinder of glass upside down on a plate type top with about 4 flowers around on top of that. I love the blown glass ones but yes they leak. My best experience was having a hummer mom build a nest and have a clutch of two babies for three years in a row. Until the dang Finches came and tore it down. We’re in Reno so only have them from May to September. Enjoy!!


  8. Danny, I got so excited about telling you about the World’s Best Hummingbird Feeders that I forgot to mention making your own food. The ratio is 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of h2o, no need for the red dye, the birds will find it no matter what color it is! Michaelanne H. Gephart, CCO, CEO Flossie’s Professional Machine Quilting San Diego, CA


  9. So cool. Be sure to switch out the Kool Aid regularly it can go funky. My first encounter was four years ago. I was working in a community garden and something flew past my ear so fast it moved my hair with the jet stream and it sounded like a small fighter plane. I freaked cause I thought it was a mondo hornet…but it was my first hummingbird!


  10. I was about to say don’t bother buying the Koolaid, but Elsie beat me to it. I discovered hummers when we bought a cottage in the Laurentians, north of Montreal. I’m endlessly fascinated by them. Who knew they were so aggressive. This summer I had one chase away a blue jay who was minding his own business in the sunflower seeds.


  11. Danny, our hummingbirds prefer sugar water versus the red store brand. Most of my friends who are hummingbird enthusiasts claim this is better for them.
    The proportion is four to one. One cup of sugar and four cups of water. You can use more or less of the sugar and water as long as it is in that proportion,
    Mix and boil. When water begins to boil, let it boil for 2 minutes. Cool and put in bird feeder. Be sure and do this. Once, I put a too hot mixture in and watched as the feeder crumpled from the heat.
    I save the extra in the fridge until the next cycle.
    Enjoy. I love to watch company watch the birds when they visit. The conversation becomes a little one-sided as the company become mesmerized by the sight.


  12. Make sure and thoroughly clean your feeder every time before you put more “nectar” in. Over time, they become breeding places for bacteria and fungi, not good for the birds, if you don’t. Most bird scientists recommend planting flowers that they like to eat nectar from in your yard, even more healthy for them than the “nectar”, whether you make it or buy it. We have Chinese lanterns, cosmos, salvia coccinea and lobelia in our yard that they love to feed on. The hummingbirds are territorial so you will have fights over who has access to the bird feeder. So much fun to watch them, perpetual motion machines.
    Aloha, Kate


  13. I agree with Chrisf on having more than one feeder. My aunt lives in Oregon and loves her Humming Birds. When I house sat for her for three weeks I was able to learn all about them. She also, like many others in your comments recommends making your own mixture without the coloring and to change out the mixture every few days as it can tend to mold and make the birds sick. By the end of the three weeks the humming birds were so used to me being there that groups of them would fly by my head. I called it being Buzzed. They can be quite loud when they get close. So excited for you!


  14. Danny, I live in PA and all our hummingbirds have headed south for the winter, so sad. Just saw our first junco, a little gray bird with a white belly, who is a sign that winter is on the way. Guess I will just have to keep busy watching the juncos until May. Enjoy the hummingbirds for me and all of us that have to deal with winter.


  15. My late father LOVED hummingbirds. My folks used to winter in Scottsdale and he’d set up a hummer feeder each winter. I used to watch them when I’d go and visit. Have pictures too. I think So Cal may be agreeing with you Daniel…


  16. If you feed them they will come, but please don’t use any food coloring its not good for them. Someone already told you the formula. just be sure to slightly boil the sugar and water and let it cool. You can keep some in the fridge. Also be sure to clean out the mold every so often with a little mop thingy that fits in the bottle and white vinegar and rinse well. We get them here all year round and they make life so much more pleasant. 🙂 Enjoy. Love your sketches.


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