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Hummingbirds 101
Hummingbirds 101
By the Staff of Bird Watcher's Digest

Everybody loves hummingbirds. Even those who otherwise have little interest in birds seem to be attracted to these amazing creatures. Many hummer species are long-distance migrants, traveling thousands of miles each year between their southern wintering grounds and their northern breeding areas. Hummers are the only birds capable of flying backwards and upside down. Seemingly effortlessly, these colorful sprites maneuver through the air, their iridescent feathers sparkling, adding a flare of magic wherever they go.

So how does one lure these winged jewels into the backyard for easy viewing? Better yet, how does one keep hummingbirds hanging around throughout the entire season? Attracting back-yard hummingbirds is not as difficult as you might think. Like all birds, hummers need food, water, and shelter. Here are a few tips to help you provide these basic necessities for your backyard hummingbirds.

Watching Backyard Birds Newsletter (Digital Edition)

Early Summer 2013

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Watching Backyard Birds Newsletter: Early Summer 2013 Feature: Watcher at the Window
One Lucky Dove
By Julie Zickefoose
April 21: The phone rings. A man with a rough, gravelly voice tells me he's got a baby mourning dove that fell out of a nest in his yard. Right away he gets points for knowing what it is; 99% of the people who call me have a "baby bird" without a clue what it is. "I think it's a robin. Or a finch." One guy called me and said he had this weird bird that he thought was probably a pheasant. I walked him through a bunch of questions about size, color, and bill shape and deduced that he'd found a car-hit whip-poor-will. And whip-poor-will it was.
Anyway, we went through the drill of establishing whether we had a prayer of returning it to its nest. Mourning doves build shaky little twig platforms that probably shouldn't be called nests. They're more like launching pads for premature babies. No, it wouldn't be possible to get the baby dove back into the nest; it was 16 feet up in a white pine at the end of a branch.
Watching Backyard Birds Newsletter: Early Summer 2013 Feature: Top 10
The Top 10 Summer Backyard Enhancers for Your Birds
By Bill Thompson, III
Here are 10 suggestions for enhancing the bird-friendliness of your backyard during the summer months, no matter where you live in North America.
10. Nesting Boxes. There's no better way to engage with your backyard birds than by providing proper housing for them. Even though not all of our backyard birds will use a nest box, those that do are incredibly interesting: chickadees, titmice, swallows, bluebirds, martins, and even some flycatchers, ducks, hawks, and owls. All sorts of resources exist for the aspiring backyard landlord both in print and online. We're pretty partial to our Backyard Booklets series.
9. Nesting Material. We touched on this in the April 2013 issue of Watching Backyard Birds with our Bird Bites suggestion for offering hair trimmings. String, hair, and animal fur are good things to offer to your nest-building birds. Just be sure that you are offering short pieces (two inches or less) and offering it in dry weather. Even a pile of dried weeds or grass clippings can be a handy source of nest construction materials. Mesh onion bags work great as a nesting material holder.
Watching Backyard Birds Newsletter: Early Summer 2013 Feature: Photo Blog
Diagnosis: Sharp-shinned Hawk
By Nancy Castillo
I still have trouble at times telling the difference between a sharp-shinned hawk and a Cooper's hawk. So if you do, too, you're not alone! I've read a number of resources to help differentiate them, and just when I think I have it down, I see one that I can't quite identify with certainty.
The problem is that you can't just use one field mark to tell the difference. Cooper's hawks are bigger—sometimes. Sharpies' tails look squared off—sometimes.
And then there's the comparative field marks like the Cooper's head being larger whereas the sharpie's head is rounded. Or that the sharpie's legs are stick-like while the Cooper's legs are thicker. The sharpie tail has a narrow white tip while the Cooper's tail has a wide white tip. Yeah, all this would be easy if they were sitting side-by-side, but that doesn't happen! And I find the in-flight characteristics—like the Cooper's slower wingbeats or that the sharpie's small head doesn't extend past the wings—even harder to pick out.