When hummingbirds store up extra energy reserves before their southern migration, you have an excellent chance for nature study. This period lasts for only a few weeks, so make the most of it by preparing hummingbird feeders, having binoculars by the window, and setting some chairs on the porch or in the yard.
Hummingbird Nature Study
Hummingbirds can be enticed to come very close to your house where you can observe them for nature study.
Hummingbird Study Ideas
First you need to attract the hummingbirds to your area. (More information below.)
Once the hummingbirds are coming around, take note of when they seem to be most active at the feeders. (For us in Tennessee, lunch time and early afternoon seemed to be the busiest time for the birds.) Schedule time to watch for the birds, sitting outside with binoculars and a sketch pad.
See and Draw
Photograph or sketch the birds. Take note of their colors and how the light affects the color. If capturing this is difficult, print some illustrations from the internet to help you. (See the section with public domain works for some good, full-color illustrations.) Younger students may want to use a coloring page (also linked below).
Observe hummingbird behavior. How do they act to one another? Do some seem especially aggressive? Do they favor a particular feeder? Where do they prefer to perch nearby?
Note your observations and write them neatly onto hummingbird notebooking pages for your nature notebook or journal.
Compare what you saw to what you read about hummingbirds. This fact sheet about the ruby throated hummingbird, the most common North American hummer, is a good place to start. Lower on this page there are books linked, some at Amazon and others in the public domain.
Observation is important because you want to teach your children how to do science themselves rather than only relying on the work of others. After spending a few hours observing hummingbird behavior, what you read will only serve to confirm what you already have discovered on your own. This is a great boost to children when they realize that they can figure out on their own, through careful observation, what the natural science books say.
Some things, however, you may not have a chance to observe, so the books will be helpful. You may not spot a nest or see hummingbird eggs, for example.
A Rare Sight
A Hummingbird on a Nest
A Hummingbird on its Nest
Hummingbirds like these particular plants:
- bee balm
- fire pink
- wild columbine
- coral honeysuckle
- wild bleeding heart
- cardinal flower
But if you don't have much of a green thumb, there are other ways to attract the tiny birds.
The fastest way to attract hummingbirds to your yard for study is to hang a feeder. As long as there is red on the feeder, the birds will see it. The nectar you make does not have to be red. Hummingbirds will come onto a porch to drink the nectar. In fact, they are generally not afraid of people. If you are sitting on the porch, they will still fly up and drink.
Make nectar by putting one cup of sugar in a 4-cup glass measuring cup. Add water up to the 3 cup mark. Microwave for four to five minutes until the sugar is totally dissolved into the water. Stir and let it cool before filling the feeders.
If your nectar clouds, it has turned bad. Throw it out and make more.
Window Mount and Hanging Mount
|Jewel Box Window Hummingbird Feeder|
|Birdscapes 710 Brushed Metal 12-Ounce Glass Hummingbird F...|
Swarms of Hummingbirds
Hoards of Hummingbirds
Our Late Summer Hummingbird Experience
It was only after we put up a feeder that we could begin to recognize the hummingbirds in our yard. By watching them leave the feeder, we could trace their favorite perches. We even grew to recognize their perky little chirps and their threatening calls as they swooped around the feeder.
At first we assumed we had a couple of hummingbirds. But after sitting outdoors to observe them for an extended time, we realized that there were at least a dozen of them in our area.
At times there were so many fighting around the feeder that it was exhilirating to be on the porch with them. They whiz past so quickly that you can feel the air from their wings. Our hummingbirds were not afraid of us. As long as we were still, they would hover right up to us.
For a Nature Journal
Five printable pages with black and white graphics.
A single lined page with a full color hummingbird graphic in the corner.
A fact sheet to fill out plus copywork about the fascinating bird.
Included in this fabulous coloring book is a page on the ruby throated hummingbird.
The first bird featured is the tiny ruby throated hummingbird.
A long PDF with detailed information about hummingbirds and a printable game for learning about their life cycle and habitat requirements.
This page has large words across the top: Animals, Broadbill Hummingbird, Birds
This teaching guide goes along with a children's book about hummingbirds. The final two pages are printables that you may be able to use for your study -- a diagram and a graphic organizer.
Public Domain Works About Hummingbirds
Free to Download, Print, and Copy
Lesson 28 is about hummingbirds. It is a very short section -- just two pages in all, including the review questions.
This classic living book by Thornton W. Burgess is full of stories that teach facts about birds. The chapter linked includes a story about hummingbirds.
This magazine article is full of drawings of hummingbirds which would be perfect for notebooking illustrations.
This field guide outlines the various hummingbird species found in the Americas.
This article lacks visual appeal, but the text is a well written, easy to understand overview of this fascinating bird.
An entire book devoted to hummingbirds.