Sunday, May 28, 2006

hummingbird feeder : Hummingbird Workshop Saturday

BY SARA LINDAU: Staff Writer

Hummingbirds fascinate hu-mans with their delicate, two-inch long bodies and iridescent feathers, weighing as much as a dime and fearlessly visiting porch sugar-water feeders.

Their tiny wings beat so fast, it looks like a blur. They have needle-like beaks.

?Hummingbirds are definitely special for people,? said ornithologist Susan Campbell, who will hold a workshop Saturday morning at the Pinehurst Village Assembly Hall from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on how to attract hummingbirds to your yard. The workshop is free to the public and is the third in a series about different birds and wildlife begun in 2006 by the Pinehurst Conservation Commission?s Greenway Wildlife Habitat Committee.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are prevalent in the Sandhills during the spring and summer, when eggs are laid and hatched, sending their fledglings out of the nest around July. The males, which are smaller than the females, begin to migrate south in August for the winter season.

?I hear from people all the time, a Hummingbird will come to a window closest to a feeder when the feeder is empty, and it seems to be trying to give humans the message that the feeder needs to be refilled,? Campbell said.

Such anecdotes are fascinating, she said. Moreover, the sugar water and nectar aren?t necessary to their survival. The staple protein in the birds? diet comes from small insects such as fruit flies or mealy bugs, Campbell said.

The birds can be aggressive with each other when disputing territory, even doing body-slams, she said.

In some situations, they can fly up to 80 mph, though 40 mph is the normal speed.

Migration patterns differ for some other varieties, she said. The larger rufous hummingbird has been documented in the winter season along North Carolina?s coastal areas, particularly in Dare County.

So far, she?s banded more than 2,000, mostly ruby-throated hummingbirds, and during her year-round research she has studied close to 500 rufous hummingbirds in North Carolina, as well as calliope and black-chinned hummingbirds. She documented the state?s first broad-billed hummingbird, broad-tailed hummingbird, Allen?s hummingbird and green-breasted mango.

Most Wednesday mornings, Campbell does her trapping, banding and recording at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve in Southern Pines, where she works part-time as a naturalist. She allows visitors to observe while she traps and bands the birds, and examines ones she has already banded that may be caught in the trap.

She records data on the birds in a logbook. That data is fed to a database with the federal Bird Banding Laboratory in Maryland.

Hummingbirds need evergreens and other protective vegetation that permit them to be fairly high off the ground for nesting and also for feeding, she said.

?They know cats are a danger to them, but hummingbirds will feed around big dogs without a problem,? she?s observed.

Their legs are short and they depend on their wings more than some other birds, because taking off on the ground is difficult, she said.

Campbell earned her master?s degree in zoology with a minor in ecology from North Carolina State University in 1997. She earned a bachelor?s degree in natural resources with a concentration in wildlife biology from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1988. A native of Philadelphia, she lives in Whispering Pines with her husband, Pete Campbell, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency biologist.

Campbell?s hummingbird research work at Weymouth is done on a volunteer basis. She is licensed by both North and South Carolina to band hummingbirds.

She also holds a federal license, allowing her to band them anywhere in the United States.

She is affiliated with The Hummer Bird Study Group in Clay, Ala., and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Campbell must rely on donations for her research work. Donations may be sent to Friends of the Museum/Hummingbird Fund, Box 26928, Raleigh, NC 27611-6928.

Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at


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