Hummingbirds feeding

Anna’s Hummingbirds live year round in Portland; invite them to a good meal of sugary nectar outside your window.

The winter scene outside may be bleak, but sometimes a bit of life appears. Birds are a big help, and not all of them have flown south. Bird feeders are a way to entice those who are still in town to drop by, chirp hello, and brighten up the grey view out the window.

Hummingbirds are especially welcome. Watching them hover, their fluttering wings but a blur, never ceases to amaze me. They live only in the Western Hemisphere, and five hummingbird species are regulars in Oregon. The Anna’s Hummingbird species are year round residents.

So they tell me at Backyard Bird Shop, which is the go-to superstore for anything bird-related. It’s common knowledge that hummingbirds are attracted to red, so red blossoming plants are a smart choice for the garden. But it’ll be a long wait until the Snapdragon, Salvia and Penstemon bloom. A year round attraction, though, is a sweet nectar you can buy or make yourself.

Here’s the nectar recipe, courtesy of Backyard Bird Shop:
Use water and sugar in a four to one ratio. For example, boil 1 cup water, add ¼ cup plain white granular sugar and boil 30 more seconds. Boiling will slow down fermentation and mold growth. Let solution cool; pour into bird feeder. Refrigerate leftover for up to two weeks, and replace solution every four to five days, cleaning the feeder with hot water and vinegar to remove any mold or yeast that may have developed.

Hummingbirds really are amazing: they can fly up to 60 miles per hour; their heart can beat up to 1,260 times per minute, or slow down to 40 beats per minute. They eat two to three times their body weight every day! And, fabulous flyers that they are, they can’t walk.

As for my own fascination with birds, I’ll admit a deep dark secret: I’ve never been a pet person. Of course I blame it on my parents (isn’t that always the right thing to do, especially during the holidays?); the only pet we had in our house when I was growing up was my brother’s bird. A parakeet. He would say hi to us when we came home, and ask how we were. So in a dog lover’s town like Portland, I’m a bit of a minority. But I do think birds are amazing, especially hummingbirds. (I’m coming around to liking dogs, too, but don’t tell anybody.)

Backyard Bird Shop has six locations in the Portland region.