Archive for Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Couple cares for migrating birds

September 18, 2002

Jim and Cindy Sartin step outside amid the buzzing of hummingbirds' wings.

The buzz recedes as the hummers zip away at the first sight of humans, but soon they return, tentatively, and then courageously.

One hovers near a feeder, takes a quick drink of sugar water. Others follow. Soon, the four feeders on the Sartins' porch are filled with the darting thimble-sized bodies of some two dozen hummingbirds.

Nearby, lined up on a power line, dozens more await their turn.

This is the fourth year the Sartins, who live about six miles northwest of Tonganoxie, have been feeding hummingbirds. Cindy takes the time about twice a week to cook up more solution four cups water to a cup of sugar and to clean the feeders with vinegar.

In her spare time, she rescues the occasional hummer that flies into the garage and can't seem to find its way out.

When a feeder hung in the garage doorway fails to lure the bird outside, Sartin gently catches them with a long-handled net used to clean the swimming pool.

If the bird has exhausted itself, she will spray it with cool water and feed the bird sugar water until the bird is strong enough to fly again.

Richard Prum, curator of birds at Kansas University's Museum of Natural History, said the Sartins are experiencing the rush to the feeders that accompanies the annual late-summer migration.

A local species in the summertime, the ruby throated hummingbird, has likely moved on, Prum said.

"There are a number of other species that sometimes migrate through the area," Prum said. "We call them vagrants they're out of their normal path."

Some species of hummingbirds may weigh only three or four grams, which is about the weight of about 10 paper clips, Prum said.

The hummingbirds put on fat for the migration season. And for some hummers, the trip may be a total 3,000 miles, traveling as much as several hundred miles in a single day.

Although they primarily feed on nectar, hummingbirds also are "opportunistic."

"They catch flies, little gnats and things like that, especially in the spring and summer when they're feeding their young and they need some protein," Prum said. "They end up fly-catching quite a bit they will steal insects out of spider webs. They fly right up to the web, hover in front of it and take whatever it is they want right out of the web."

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