Got Hummingbirds?

Hummingbird in flight
Hummingbird in flight
Photo by Dan Sedenquist

Las Vegas is an oasis in the desert. We have imported water to the arid valley and made it a paradise for wildlife that otherwise wouldn’t be seen here, such as mockingbirds, pigeons, and tourists from New York City. A couple of weeks ago I decided to take advantage of the natural beauty available and I set out to attract to the backyard that strikingly beautiful elusive creature, the Vegas showgirl. No, just kidding, I mean hummingbirds.

I love hummingbirds. Somewhat bigger than a wasp but much less intimidating, they’d flit about and hover in an astonishing manner, sipping nectar daintily from a few flowers before zipping off to the neighbor’s shrubs. Wouldn’t it be great if I could encourage them, provide some sugar water and get them to stay a while, maybe turn the yard into a hummingbird resort? So I did some research. Apparently, hummingbirds love the color red, so I went to the store and got a big red hummingbird feeder complete with red-colored sugar water. Hanging the feeder on the outside of the window I sat back and waited a day or two for the hummingbirds to show up.

Nothing, not a single hum. In fact, there seemed to actually be fewer hummingbirds than before. “Maybe they don’t like it next to the window,” I mused, so I moved the feeder out to a nearby tree and waited some more. Then, the next day, I saw it, a hummingbird! It hovered around the window where the feeder used to be, circled once and flew off to the neighbor’s flowers, totally ignoring the feeder a few yards away. “Hmmm,” I hmmed, realizing that I had just hummed longer than the hummingbird had visited. Thinking that I just had to be patient, I waited another couple of days. One more hummingbird came to the window where the feeder used to be. “Over there!” I yelled from inside, pointing to the feeder. “It’s right there!” The bird immediately flew off in the opposite direction.

Nevertheless the feeder was not completely overlooked by the Las Vegas ecological community. Looking out the window the next day at the red feeder, hanging from a tree branch by a wire, I noticed a dark build-up on the inside. Now, it turns out that mold also loves sugar water, and you must clean out the feeder periodically to prevent it from taking over. I walked out to the tree and retrieved the feeder. Once I got it inside, I opened it. Big mistake. Turns out the dark layer wasn’t mold, it was ants! Thousands of them, crawling everywhere! And they weren’t the friendly sort, either, as they started biting me in places I didn’t even know I had.

Exhibit One
Exhibit One
Photo by Michael H. Dickman

Fortunately, I have a plan of action in such circumstances: I panic. Slapping wildly at myself I ran out to the swimming pool and jumped in. It was okay, since there was water in the pool, and the ants actually did stop biting me after a while. I’m still finding dead ants in the house, though, and the red hummingbird feeder went in the trash the next day, where my neighbor saw me taking it.

“Hummingbirds, huh?” he said, “I had to throw my feeder out, too.”

I nodded, knowingly. “You couldn’t handle the ants either?”

He gave me a strange look. “Ants? What’re you talkin’ about? I put my feeder up and got hundreds of hummingbirds the same day. They just sucked down that sugar water down like it was nothin’. So I filled it again and boom! they just sucked it right down again. I’m not standin’ for that. So I tossed that feeder out.”

I just looked at him as he continued.

“And you know what? They still came around, lookin’. My wife’s in that red hat thing. Made the mistake of goin’ out in the back yard with her red hat on. Right away they were swoopin’ at her, like dive-bombin’ at her hat. She had to run back in, screamin’ her fool head off. I had to buy a shotgun for protection. It was like that movie.”

“You mean Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’?”

“You’re not makin’ any sense today. It was like that Clint Eastwood movie, you know, like, hummingbirds, make my day! Do ya feel lucky, punks? That movie. I tell ya, it’s dangerous. Those feeders oughta be banned. Hey look, you know what’s the line on the Yankees?”

I didn’t, so we went back to our respective abodes. Mine, definitely without hummingbirds in the backyard. I’m giving up on them. I wonder if desert cockroaches make good pets.


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