Julien Johnson checks on the fluid level of one of his hummingbird feeders at his Holland home. Johnson said he has not seen any hummingbirds in about a month, but a hummingbird expert said they probably did not nest near Johnson’s home this year.
Julien Johnson checks on the fluid level of one of his hummingbird feeders at his Holland home. Johnson said he has not seen any hummingbirds in about a month, but a hummingbird expert said they probably did not nest near Johnson’s home this year.

Archived Story

A little mystery

Published 9:40pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hummingbird watchers wonder what happened

Neighbors in Holland were concerned that all the hummingbirds that usually frequent their feeders had disappeared, but the national Hummingbird Society says there is a reasonable explanation.

“Right at the end of March, they come in,” said Julien Johnson, explaining the tiny aviators’ annual schedule of visiting his Holland home. “There will be two to three, then there will be a dozen. Usually we get more later in the summer.”

But this year, he said, the hummingbirds stuck around for only a couple of weeks and then left, despite the fact he has several artificial feeders, as well as hummingbird-friendly plants, around his property on Ruritan Boulevard.

“They just disappeared,” he said, speculating the “crazy” weather may have been to blame. “I’ve just never seen them go like that.”

But around the end of April, that’s exactly what happened. Johnson hasn’t seen a single one since then.

There’s a simple answer to this question, said Ross Hawkins, executive director of the Arizona-headquartered Hummingbird Society. He expects the same inquiry from folks across the country every May.

Hawkins said the hummingbirds likely have chosen not to nest near Johnson’s property this year.

“She does not have the time to travel far from the nest to feed herself and her chicks,” Hawkins said of the female hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds choose a site and then lay two eggs, which are incubated for about two and a half weeks. The mother then feeds her chicks for about three and a half weeks, so anyone outside of roughly a mile from the nest won’t see any of them for six weeks or so, Hawkins said.

The hummingbirds should start returning to their ordinary feeding grounds in June, Hawkins added.

“Once the chicks are out of the nest, it will be a different story,” he said. “The chicks are a lot like some teenagers, wandering around looking for food and company, and mama is no longer tied to the nest.”

Hawkins said folks who want to encourage hummingbirds to nest near their homes in the future should hang a rack of Hummer Helper nesting material near the most popular feeder as soon as hummingbirds arrive in early spring.

“It has been specifically designed and tested, and it’s the only thing on the market,” Hawkins said. “We use it at home, and here at the society office. We have a nest built five feet from the office door.”

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