Hummingbirds At Home

Female Costa’s Hummingbird on Desert Spoon in January

When we added a small patch of native plants to our front yard, we not only enhanced a previously bare space, we invited in hummingbirds. Now when we step outside the front door, we often notice Costa’s hummingbirds, colorful and entertaining neighbors.

Experts say a male Costa’s only pairs with a female long enough to ensure his legacy.  After courtship and breeding, the male goes his own way. The female sets to work, building a nest, laying eggs, incubating and feeding the youngsters. A female hangs out in our front yard year around, feeding on Chuparosa nectar in the winter, and Orange Bells (Tecoma hybrid) around the corner in the summer. When not hovering near a blossom or zooming away from our interruptions, the Costa’s perches in what seem to be customary places.  

The Chuparosa’s twining stems embrace an adolescent saguaro, fifteen years old but just four feet tall. A Cassia’s dense growth provides shelter and presumably an insect buffet, but it is on the spiky blades of the Desert Spoon that the hummingbird perches, overseeing her Chuparosa and drawing warmth and shelter from the east-facing wall. 

The Ironwood tree, just across the driveway, provides more perfect hummingbird domain.  I often see the female perched on a low branch, blending perfectly into the grey-green palette of leaves. In this tree she finds shelter, nesting space, an insect population for snacks and baby food, and a good view of that Chuparosa plant, covered now with deep red blooms, juicy with nectar. 

When she turns her eye to this winter food source, she can’t help but watch for the glistening purple cap of the Costa’s male. It seems soon she will begin to construct a nest, bringing tiny twigs and bits of leaf, and binding them with spider webs into a walnut sized cup to hold her precious eggs. 

Female Costa’s fluffed up for warmth in Ironwood Tree
Chuparosa, Saguaro, Cassia, Desert Spoon and Brittlebush are all plants to attract wildlife
Costa’s male

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