The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Monday, June 30, 2003



More on Hummingbirds
Bill Lindemann, Fredericksburg Standard/Radio Post, Kerrville Daily Times, June 2003, © 2003

Last Sunday I spent some time in Vahn Adams backyard near Johnson City admiring his two hummingbird visitors from Central America. I was lucky to get a good photograph of the mature Green Violet-ear hummingbird. Although Green Violet-ears seem to show up almost every summer in the Hill Country, the Adam's visitors were special in several ways. They were the first pair (not necessarily a mated pair) to appear at a feeder at the same time, and they have stayed for 16 days. Often these birds are skittish of people being around, but the presence of birders did not appear to affect them.

The Adamses moved back to their hometown last year after retirement and have a very nice place for birds to congregate. When the violet-ears were not commanding center stage, there were Painted Buntings, Lesser Goldfinches, Black-chinned Hummingbirds and many of the other local birds coming in for a bit to eat, or a sip of water. As the Adamses add native plants and increase cover and food plants, even more birds will come calling.

In the 16 days they were in the Adam's backyard, more than 100 birders from around Texas came to see them. Adams had inquires from interested birders from as far away as New York. Those people who came to Johnson City in most cases not only saw the birds, but also had good looks at them. Seeing them around the feeders with our Black-chinned Hummingbirds left no question about the visitors being different from our hummers. The violet-ear's larger size and dark plumage definitely set them apart.

Hopefully the birds will not be frightened away by a thunderstorm passing through the Johnson City area at the present time. If they do not return to the Adams' back yard, they might be calling on your feeders. Keep a vigilant eye on the feeders for the next month or so for them.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure to visit the Nature Conservancy's Love Creek Preserve near Medina with the Hill Country master naturalist's organization. I got to experience a first for me in seeing a hummingbird nest with two eggs in it. The nest was on a sycamore tree limb about six feet above Love Creek. One of the master naturalists saw the female Black-chinned Hummingbird leave the nest as we passed by. I have found several nests, but never containing eggs. The nest is made of plant down and spider webs. The top opening was about the size of a quarter coin. The two white eggs were larger than I would have expected for such a tiny bird. Another egg would have been capacity for the nest.

Hummingbirds stick small lichen and moss fragments on the nest to give it excellent camouflage. The builder had the nest well anchored with spider web "guy-wires" to keep it solidly in place. The nest is built to allow for expansion as the offspring grow larger. The size of the opening can double by the time the young birds fledge.

Please check with Vahn Adams (telephone: 830-868-2558) about the presence of the Green Violet-ears before traveling toJohnson City. Again I extend thanks on behalf of all of the visiting birders to the Adamses for sharing their unusual visitors.

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