My husband, Jay, recently returned from our neighbors' and announced that hummingbirds were zooming around their place.

My husband, Jay, recently returned from our neighbors' and announced that hummingbirds were zooming around their place.


"If there, then here," I remarked.


We've lived at our place for 34 years, and while we have a variety of critters at our rural Odessa, Fla., home, we'd never seen hummingbirds. I've long been intrigued by the little fellows, but sort of figured they were more suited to other climates, like North Carolina, where we have enjoyed their antics many times, hovering around an outdoor porch during the summer.


I trotted out and bought a hummingbird feeder, heeding the advice of my sister in Indiana -- she has dozens of hummingbirds at her place -- that the feeder should be red, since the tiny little birds seem to favor that color.


I mixed a batch of nectar: one part granulated sugar to two parts water, heated it until dissolved, let it cool completely and poured a cup in the feeder. On a recent Saturday, I hung the feeder off our deck near large pots of rose-colored impatiens, having read that hummingbirds are drawn to brightly colored flowers.


Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical. But late that Sunday, as Jay and I were sitting down for dinner, I jokingly said I hoped one day he would hear me call out, "Got one!" That would indicate a hummingbird sighting.


We were enjoying dinner in front of the large glass doors that give a good view of our backyard. "Got one!" I shouted.


Jay gave me a disbelieving grin and said, "Sure you did. You're teasing."


Then he shot to standing and exclaimed: "Did YOU see that?! We have hummingbirds!"


We finished dinner and perched ourselves on the deck, sitting quietly, enjoying the little birds that seemed to drop out of the trees to slurp the sweet nectar. For more than an hour, it was a constant flurry of activity.


Weighing less than a penny and with a wingspan of 4 inches, the tiny birds flutter their wings so fast they are a blur. In feeding, they pose at the port, slurp the sweet liquid, hover back a few inches and then return for seconds, thirds or fourths. They feed for a few seconds. Then in a flash, they're gone.


The experts at the University of Florida say three types of hummingbirds primarily frequent Florida, the main one being the ruby-throated kind distinguishable by the bright red "scarf like" band around the front of the neck. Some hummingbird enthusiasts have documented up to a dozen species here, though.


It's a real treat to enjoy these little fellows, so bring out that hummingbird feeder and enjoy the visit.


By the numbers


-- 338 known species of hummingbirds in North and South America


-- 16 species of hummingbirds commonly found in the United States


Source: University of Florida


Email gdiederich@tampabay.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service www.scrippsnews.com.