The hummingbird is a wonder to see; a tiny, elusive bird just 3 inches long and weighing about half an ounce, suspended in air as it dips its long beak in to suck nectar from a colorful, tubular flower. Then, in a flash, it's gone, wings beating a mile a minute as it zooms backward or upside down, off to find refuge, perhaps, in a tiny nest.
Their bright-colored plumage was once used to decorate the ceremonial costumes of American Indians. These days most people just like to watch the winged wonders.
But how to draw them in?
The Hummingbird Festival on Saturday at the Pioneer Florida Museum will feature the flowers, bushes and trees that attract the three main species of hummingbirds that occur in Florida. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, there's the black-chinned or rufous varieties that are sometimes seen in the winter months, or the more common ruby-throated hummingbird that often has a hankering for the flowering pink pagoda, coral honeysuckle vine, red or purple salvia or even a clear nectar brew set out in a bright red feeder.
"We've had a few (hummingbirds) steady in our own back yard all winter," said Wayne Sweat, of Spring Hill, as he went about hanging hummingbird feeders on the museum grounds earlier this week. Sweat, 69, a constant volunteer at the museum, came up with the idea to host a Hummingbird Festival after attending a similar event in Georgia. The first event was held in October 2009.
Feeders are a backup of sorts. Although the honeysuckle, pentas and salvia are already ripe with nectar, other hummingbird-attracting plants have yet to bloom.
"We've been planting a lot of natives (plants) around here to attract both birds and butterflies," said museum director Barbara Russ, noting that volunteers such as Gary and Kathie Watts and local master gardeners from the Pasco County Extension have been hard at work. "We're trying to make the grounds and surroundings for the museum as much as it would have been like during pioneer times."
Visitors may take in the usual pioneer exhibits and demonstrations while they learn more about hummingbirds and what they like to eat. There also will be educational exhibits on butterflies, bats, plants and wildlife, as well as the opportunity to build your own bluebird house while supplies last.
Though there could be a hummingbird or two flitting about, visitors shouldn't count on catching a glimpse of one.
"We don't have a flock that we can call in for the day," Russ said.
But there's plenty more to take in with the thought that, one day soon, you might catch sight of the tiny bird in your own back yard.
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]