Several years ago, I was lucky enough to take a trip to southeastern Arizona where every destination, hike and tour focused on hummingbirds. My fellow travelers and I walked around starry-eyed, clutching cameras and scribbling field notes as we watched the tree branches and feeders. And we weren’t disappointed; hummingbirds were everywhere. All told, I spotted 13 different species on that trip, including several rarities.
The experience stuck with me, and made me realize that although watching hummingbirds at backyard sugar-water feeders is pretty wonderful, there are a lot of other ways to indulge that interest. This list of 10 hummingbird activities is a good place to start. What are you waiting for?
Take a hummingbird vacation.
Southwestern states like Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas offer the largest concentration of hummingbirds and a diverse range of hummingbird species. Destinations like Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Arizona or Davis Mountains State Park in Texas are especially known for plentiful and rare hummingbird sightings. But if such destinations are too far afield for you, take a day trip to a botanical garden that has plenty of sugar-water feeders. You’ll see hummingbirds by the dozen, especially during fall migration.
Attend a hummingbird festival.
Hummingbird people are good people, and there’s no better place to meet those kindred spirits than at a hummingbird festival. You can find these events all over the country. The festivals usually take place in July through September and are concentrated in areas that experience abundant migration activity. The Rockport-Fulton HummerBird Celebration in Texas and the Sedona Hummingbird Festival in Arizona are two of the best ones.
Start a hummingbird journal.
Here’s an activity you can do without leaving home. Keep a journal of the hummingbird activity in your yard. Note when the first hummingbird arrives in spring and when the final one departs in fall. How many visit your feeders? How does their activity shift during the day? Notice changing factors like weather or feeder placement, and write down those funny hummingbird stories, too!
Get a hummingbird tattoo.
Real or temporary, a tattoo is a whimsical—or really devoted—way to acknowledge your love of hummingbirds. Smack that piece of dampened paper to your skin (or visit a reputable tattoo artist), and smile.
Hand-feed a hummingbird.
Imagine the thrill of having a tiny hummingbird, which typically weighs 0.1 to 0.2 ounces (less than a marshmallow), alight on your palm. Give hand-feeding a whirl during nesting season or before migration, when the birds are expending a lot of energy and eating a lot of food. Spend time near your feeders, so the birds become accustomed to your presence. Then, cover all feeders but one, and hold that remaining feeder in your lap. Not every attempt will be successful, but be patient and keep trying.
Researchers have been banding birds to gather information about migration, lifespan and population since 1920 as part of the North American Bird Banding Program. Hummingbird banding is an extremely specialized activity, with hummingbirds making up less than 1 percent of the birds banded. The banders themselves are an elite group, and hold special permits. Participate in the process by volunteering at banding events, which take place at hummingbird festivals, or during migration periods along key flyways.
Recognize hummingbird calls.
Experienced birders don’t need binoculars to identify birds. They use their ears instead, and usually know a particular bird is nearby well before they spot it. Hummingbirds, though not known for their songs, still make a series of distinct calls. Become attuned to these sounds by finding recordings at websites like allaboutbirds.org to learn the calls of different hummingbirds and what they mean.
Share your hummingbird passion with others.
Thinking back to that Arizona hummingbird trip, one of its most enjoyable aspects was the shared experience. That sharing can happen on a trip, at a festival, on your front porch or at places like local schools and senior centers. Look for teaching or volunteering opportunities in your community to pass along what you love about hummingbirds. That’s one experience that will surely make your life richer.
Find a nesting hummingbird.
Hummingbirds usually build their intricately engineered nests on tree branches, but sometimes the birds select more visible and unorthodox nesting spots like plant hooks, chandelier-style light fixtures or electrical wires. Any horizontal surface under a protective roof will usually do, though nests can be really hard to find. Gather up your hummingbird-loving friends, and set out on the search.
Creating your own sugar-water feeder is incredibly simple, and if you’re crafty, you’ve probably already built one or maybe a dozen! For the rest of us, check out sites like Pinterest (or hey, birdsandblooms.com) for innumerable ideas. My favorite DIY sugar-water feeders are the ones made from a pretty glass bottle, a stopper and a tube. You can buy the stopper and feeder tube attachments online; just search for “hummingbird feeder tube” to get started.