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Bird haven humming along
The rufous hummingbird is a common variety in Wyoming. This bird was photographed in Sinks Canyon near Lander. Photo by Tim Avery/timaverybirding.com

Bird haven humming along

Aug 19, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

Deb and Shawn Huddleston have discovered many ways to attrct the tiny birds.

When Deb Huddleston and her husband, Shawn, relocated from Cody to Riverton, they wished more hummingbirds came to the city.

"I met a lady who told me she had sold all of her hummingbird feeders at a garage sale because they never came," Deb Huddleston said.

Because of their deep fascination with the little birds, the Huddlestons decided to try and attract the hummers to their back yard.

"The first year, we merely put up feeders, and we had a few hummingbirds fly by and kind of check things out, but none of them stayed," Huddleston said.

Determined not to give up, the Huddlestons began researching various ways to get the birds to stick around.

After constructing a 1,000 square foot hummingbird garden in their back yard, the Huddlestons realized that red roses and feeders attracted the birds, but the couple needed plants that also would feed them.

Deb Huddleston visited an open forum online about hummingbirds and inquired as to what sort of plants she would need.

"Someone suggested I try zauschneria, a willowherb plant that is bright orange and sticky," Huddleston said. "Once I put that out, it was a huge hit."

Two years after the Huddlestons constructed their garden, more than 40 hummingbirds visited to feed off their plants: blue and black salvia, monarda (beebalm), agastache and hyssop.

"Once a hummer would visit our garden, they knew that we had food," Huddleston said. "Oftentimes they would bring their friends, so my husband and I developed a term called 'word of beak.'"

Huddleston found that hummingbirds started appearing around the first part of July and would stay around until the first week of October.

One year, a snowstorm came and killed all of the plants in the garden, but one lone hummingbird appeared while snow was still on the ground.

"I was in my kitchen and saw something dart by. It was a hummer that had more than likely visited our garden earlier in the summer," Huddleston said.

"I knew that I had saved a fuschia plant so I ran to set it out. The little hummer stuck around for two hours."

Huddleston said she believes the nectar from the plant would have kept the hummer alive as it headed off into hibernation.

Huddleston would spend hours in her garden observing the birds and said the hummers were never threatened by her presence. Huddleston said some of them had distinguishing characteristics that set them apart.

The Huddlestons moved last year and to keep the hummingbirds coming, they built a new garden and put a red roof on their home.

"The color red can be seen by a hummer from almost two miles away," Huddleston said.

Huddleston said she believes hummingbirds will start making an appearance in Riverton earlier this year because of the warmer weather.

"I hope anyone interested in these beautiful little birds will know that they do come to Riverton," Huddleston said.

"All it takes is a couple of feeders, plants and water to attract them."

Facts about hummingbirds

Huddleston said hummingbirds are among the smallest species of birds and can hover by flapping their wings almost 50 times a second.

"Hummers are some of the smallest birds, but they are extremely feisty, and they definitely know how to take charge," Huddleston said.

In Riverton, four types of hummingbirds have been seen: broad-tailed, calliope, rufous and black-chinned.

Huddleston said a lot of people believe hummingbirds can only go 1/4-inch deep in water, but she has found that some of the hummingbirds visiting her garden would go much deeper in the fountain.

The plants hummingbirds feed from are often sticky, and the birds like to wash themselves off in the water, she said.

Huddleston said she hopes more people in Riverton will learn how to attract the petite birds that migrate from Montana.

"I think they are some of the most amazing creatures," Huddleston said.

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