Is there any bird more ephemeral than the hummingbird? Like buzzing avian fairies darting with purpose from one bloom to the next, they pass by in a blur, never seeming to rest. Whoosh, they're gone.
So it's to the delight of armchair birdwatchers everywhere that Joe and Erica Dellwo set up a webcam in their Southern California garden to chronicle the comings and goings of Phoebe, a non-migratory Channel Islands Allen's Hummingbird. Each year she (or one of her iridescent doppelgängers) returns for a new season of hummingbird antics.
Built in a rose bush, the nest is about the size of a golf ball, with eggs the size of Tic-Tacs. Which makes sense given that the average hummingbird weighs one-tenth of a teeny ounce. The season for nesting is October through May/June. Phoebe usually lays four to five clutches per season, with two eggs per clutch.
The wee birds hatch after 17 days, and generally learn to fly within three or four weeks. When the chicks have flown the coop, so to speak, resourceful Phoebe sometimes builds a new nest, but frequently repairs the old one, and then gets to work on a new clutch. A hummingbird's work is never done...
Watch mom and the kids here.
A charm of hummingbirds flitting about the garden adds some enchanted dynamic, to be sure. Since one of the biggest threats to hummingbirds is loss of summer habitat due to development, you can help hummingbirds by planting flowers that meet their needs, while enriching your garden at the same time.
Best perennials and biennials to attract hummingbirds include hollyhock, columbine, delphinium, foxglove, daylily, coral bells, hosta, blazing star, bee balm, and garden phlox. Good annuals include flowering tobacco, scarlet runner bean, salvia, and single petunia. Regardless of annual or perennial, avoid the double flowers as they are difficult for hummingbirds (and insects) to pollinate.
For more on Phoebe and the nest cam, visit ustream.