It took me about 10 years here in Mexico before I got my first bird feeder, and that was just a few months ago. Finally I'm living in a place where it makes sense to put one up. My Condesa house here in Ciudad Guzmán. A new construction overlooking the volcanoes, and with a large weedy field right behind the patio wall, providing free access to all who can fly, and navigate in between the electrical wires that spread out 5-fold on top of the wall. To Protect Us From Harm.
Unfortunately the area as a whole is rather isolated from what you would call real natural habitats why the selection of species to be found around here is modest. Mostly the usual city species, like Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Curve-billed Thrasher, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and the notorious Canyon Towhee. Groove-billed Ani has also been stable throughout the summer, and still is. Flyby species of course add to the list, but that has also been a modest affair during the summer months. Now that the winter birds are showing up, it starts to look better with batches of Cattle Egrets flying to and from Laguna Zapotlán and likewise Yellow-headed Blackbirds plus their smaller cousins, the two cowbirds.
Different White-tailed Kites have been by as well, probably wondering where all the good habitats they used to frequent have gone. Industrial Berry Production and Avocado Ditto have gravely altered the landscapes around here, and every day natural and open shrub habitat is less likely to be found. I've said it before, and will again: Stop eating them, please. Buy something local and more healthy. They also use pesticides like you and I drink water. And being high tech and slow production they don't even provide many jobs to local people with little education. We're talking about agricultural engineers and the sort, of which many are my new neighbors here in La Condesa.
These are products that city people like to think make them oh so healthy and moral saints, but these products, absolutely unnecessary to consume to maintain a good health, are doing more damage than good in the overall picture, if you ask me. And this even if we include the value of the positive attitude of the young self-focused vegan feminist at downtown Bistro Chic O'My... "Oh my Goood, they are juzt zooo delizziouzzz thezzze blue berriezzz...".
Deviating? Well, perhaps a little, but now you have a better idea of the scenery and then let me tell you about the feeder.
We are talking about a hummingbird feeder. The hummingbirds have become my favorite passion within my passion, and to have them visiting just outside my window has been a long time dream. So much that I bought a large feeder a good while ago, with the intention to use it where I lived with my ex. But when my ex right after started to become my ex, I decided to safe it for at better opportunity and focus on the practical obstacles of moving out and away.
So, it was not until I was well settled here, that I finally found it time to give it a try, and I was very excited about it. It had stayed in its box the whole time and was shining brightly when I pulled it out, with its red base and white flowers. Knowing little about birds, a thought had crossed my mind,whether a white flower would be acceptable for the hummingbirds, or not. I've mostly seen yellow flowers on feeders. But well, I thought. They probably don't make this rather expensive feeder if it doesn't work. So I decided to buy it. I also bought a bottle of red nectar, to have the entire package ready to go, when the moment would be right.
It's a simple construction, and you can't really get it wrong, so I filled up the container and assembled the whole thing and found a good place for it. All smooth and easy. And then it was just to wait for a hummingbird to show up.
But, between here and the next morning a few logical steps seem to be missing, because when I the next morning got up and looked out the window, I could see that something was wrong with my feeder. It was empty, and there was a large wet pool on the ground beneath it.
Obviously broken, but how? I'm sure there was nothing wrong the night before, when I left it, and I could only believe that someone or something had provoked the spilling deliberately. But well, couldn't think of anything likely, so I decided to just give it another try, and refilled it, and hung it up again. But this time it didn't behave like the day before. Instead, it instantly started to leak. Steadily the liquid began to flow from all 4 flowers by the simple effort of gravity. I took it apart, and examined it the best possible way, but couldn't see what to do differently, why I concluded that it had to be a simple case of crappy design. Bought in Liverpool, Centro Comercial Galerias, at the corner of Av. Vallarta and Sanzio, Zapopan (part of Guadalajara), in case you should come by one day, and would like to avoid to make the same mistake as me.
I threw mine away under the sink in the patio, thinking that it was too expensive, 400 pesos I think, to discard of completely, and maybe it could one day be used to plant flowers in, or something more creative.
And then I was feeder-less again. And remained so for a long time. It's not a product commonly sold here in Mexico. I've been looking but never found one here in Ciudad Guzmán, for example. For house and garden birding the locals normally prefer to buy a solid cage in which to lock away their targets for present and future admiration. The classic need to possess without thought and consideration, which it would suit my judgmental mind the best if I could accuse only the simpler rural people of this world to be guilty of. But in a fair and just moment I have to recognize, that it flows through all levels of society, proving that the human species still has a long way to go before it is worth talking about any kind of human superiority.
And so it was not until a good time after, when my friend Von from Colima, told me that he had bought a feeder in Home Depot, that I made a new intent.
I bought two while at it, relying on my trust in Von, that he would not have bought and hung up a feeder that didn't work. And after all, I had seen it in action, and the Cinnamon Hummingbirds didn't seem to have any problems with it.
I also decided not to be buy the nectar fluid this time, because Von told me that the colorless liquid he was using, was just a simple homemade sugar solution. Nothing fancy. I admit that I always thought it had to be something special to attract the birds, and to assure they would get what they needed. But this was much better, and cheaper.
And so, again, full of excitement I made a new intent. Prepared the liquid, 4-to-1 water and sugar, and mounted the parts.
I had only once seen a hummingbird spontaneously coming to the house, sitting on the wires, so I knew it would take some time before any would casually come by and find the feeder. I guess this is always how birds operate and find new food sources - it rarely has to do with calculated effort or intelligence. Wings over brain. So I prepared myself with patience.
And it turned out I needed a good lot of it, because nothing happened. Neither the first nor the second week. What a shame I came to conclude. Should it really not be possible to attract any at all? Of course I was not constantly on watch to follow what happened in my patio, but I could clearly see that the level of the liquid had stayed the same the whole time, why it could not be, that I had simply been unlucky not coming across any visitors. Bugger All, as some antiquated British Males Actors are disposed to utter, when things aren't working their way. So what to do then? I decided to take it down. Visitors or not, it probably also had to be cleaned, expecting that the sun and the flow of all living things would have made the content very alive on a microscopic level.
And when I took it apart I remembered how I had been wondering how the liquid would get out of the container, when I put it up. Because, the bottom looked pretty solid to me. But I had decided to believe that two irregularities in the plastic had to work as some kind of valve when it was once in action, and didn't think more about it than that. Not until now that I had the container in my hand again, and looked at it again. Then it became clear to me what had been wrong the whole time. There was no sophisticated opening at the bottom, I had simply attached the container the wrong way, why the liquid could never get out and flow into the flower tray below it! Bugger All Indeed!
But also a relief to know there was an explanation to the failure. And with a fresh refill, I was animated with hope again.
Still it took another two weeks or so, before the first hummingbird finally showed up. A Violet-crowned Hummingbird approached curiously and trying at first, but soon found out that this was an easy and safe meal, and it has been coming ever since!
Later a bunch of male Broad-billed Hummingbirds showed up. Three of them, almost at the same time, and they too have being coming since then. Once, two other males Broad-billed showed up, seeing all 5 of them at the same time, but they disappeared again soon, and for a long time the original 4 were the only ones that would come. But then, the other day, on my birthday, lucky me, another Violet-crowned was sitting on the wire next to number one. Assuming of course, that the one is the same as since the beginning, but this species is more feature-less why it requires more scrutiny to separate one individual from the other. The Broad-billed males have been easier to separate being in different stages of molt they all had each their different expression. Now when they are in fresh plumage it is probably more difficult to separate them.
Unless you focus on their behavior. Because, it is very interesting to follow how the different birds seem to have very different 'personalities'. Despite of their small brains, they certainly don't behavior the same way, assuring me of the fact that even these small instinct-borne creatures are as unique as you and I among the humans. Of course I dare say!
One of the Broad-billed soon found out to use the perch in front of the artificial flower to sit down while feeding. Like the Violet-crowned always does. But one of the others always seems to prefer to hover while it feeds. And you wonder why this is, but will probably have to accept the non-scientific answer that some like the mother, others the daughter and some take them both...always difficult to tell.
However, they all seem to have a more or less aggressive behavior toward each other. Even though there are 4 flowers to eat from at the same time, both the Violet-crowned and the Broad-billeds use a lot of energy to chase the others away. I have only seen two birds feeding at the same time as a max.
They also use the electric wires, and the Violet-crowned also my clothesline, to perch between feeding rallies, and often one will wait on the wire until another has finished feeding, and like that they'll sometimes take a few rounds, until they suddenly speed away in each their direction. Also, often a bird will continue hovering from one flower to the next in endless indecisiveness, and then suddenly give it up, and fly away, for no apparent reason. In behavior therefore, all very unpredictable, and the only certain thing is, that they keep coming back. And honestly to the extent that I'm sometimes suspecting some of them, especially the Broad-billeds to have gotten a little too fond of the sweet juice. Maybe it is just one of them, but it happens that one is just sitting there, for a long time sipping away, with the long slender bill working as a drain-pipe as if trying to empty the whole container by one greedy suction. If it could.
In the moment of writing, I'm having other visitors in my patio. The neighbor decided to build a taller wall around his, to prevent me from being a busy-nose from my first floor window, and for that reason, though not very common, it has been insisted on from both my, the owner's and the association's side that the back side of the wall, mine, should be finished well, as well. This work is ongoing in this very moment, with the consequence that I had to move the feeder to the far corner of the patio, to give the workers enough space to do their job.
The hummingbirds are not very shy. I have often been standing down there doing my laundry while they would still come in and feed. Therefore I was sure that it wouldn't be a problem as such for them to keep coming with the workers around. But it was funny to see, in the beginning, that they would come in, flying directly to the spot where the feeder had been hanging, and confused hover around that same area for a long time trying to find out what had happened to their food source.
Being small racket-balls flying faster than many other species on the short distance, I've always expected these birds to have an excellent vision, capturing anything noteworthy in a split second while buzzing around. And I would have expected them to have a very clear picture of the feeder in their heads by now, why it should have been a piece of cake to spot it in its new position, only hanging 3 meters from the original spot. But apparently this wasn't the case. It took a long time before the first one finally found the feeder in the corner, and it looked like it was by pure accident.
My thought about this has to be that these animals are programmed just like us. We take things for granted when they have been constant for a long enough time. An energy-saving strategy most likely, which in our case, however, has mostly turned into conformity and laziness, but among the wilder creatures probably makes good sense. Still, I can't help wondering if the sugar has had a negative effect on them, knowing how too much sugar is bad for the brain, and now being sugar addicts, perhaps they've lost their normal senses..!
Ah, silly imagination that is, of course, and even if there is something to it, I'm not sure if my moral scruples would prevent me from continuing feeding them. The birds themselves would most likely prefer me to continue, and as long as they are still able to maneuver in between the electrical wires without crashing, it shouldn't cause too much alarm, and they are not responsible to any offspring at this time of year, and if they eventually are not able to pick up a partner afterward because they've dazed chronically away into Sugar Wonderland, then there most likely will be other responsible males ready to step in to fulfill the obligations on behalf of the species.
Another thing is funny with the Broad-billeds, because, out in the field, my perception is that you normally see more female type birds than males, why it is strange that I've never seen a single female here. All are adult males. But perhaps some did visit, and were chased away by the dominant males. They certainly managed to chase the other two males away, and would probably have an easier time doing the same with the females. I'm sure they would have liked to do it with the Violet-crowned too, but it is bigger than them, and has definitely got a hang of the place, why I'm sure it will defend itself and its position here, until the day it is time to leave.
Because, one must assume they all disappear the day their natural needs dictate them to seek a mate and a place to breed. I hope they will. Imagine if they decided to stay here forever, because the food is easy?! That would be pathetic, and would be a disappointment of grand proportions that these magnificent and free-flying spirits would fall so low. Be Proud and stay true to your nature, and don't allow my pleasure-seeking needs to have you become an addict of convenience! Please.
But one way or the other, the satisfaction of finally being a man with a successful feeder is big. It's tremendous fun, and now being hooked, I'm only looking forward to get to live in where place where it makes sense put up number two feeder as well!
When reaching the beginning of December my faithful visitors started to visit less often, and soon the Violet-crowned failed to show up completely, while one or two of the male Broad-billed continued to approach the feeder a while longer, until they too, by mid December, both were gone.
Somewhat sad and disappointing I have to admit, and I wonder why they left:
Did they leave to start breeding? At least Broad-billed is known to be able to start breeding early in the winter season. Or had it to do with the weather getting colder making them move to warmer areas? Or had it to do with lack of food? They certainly didn't feed only on my sugar solution, as I've seen them in the neighborhood foraging on plants, e.g. the Tobacco plant and bushes with red tubular flowers. Like us humans they would not be able to stay healthy if they only relied on my refined sugar, and now that the wet season seems to be over, the flowers might also become scarcer and producing less nectar, not providing the birds with enough of the essential nutrients they need beside the pure energy that the sugar provides. Pure speculations...
But if it had to be, the timing couldn't be better, since I'm off to Denmark in a few days anyway, and would have had to let my beautiful airy jewels down for a good while. All for the best then, but hoping they'll show up again in the new year...and me too, but that's another story!