Tiny birds are sure to make a big impression on Hummingbird Day at the UCSC Arboretum on Saturday, March 15

Visitors to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum can count on aerial acrobatics galore for the Arboretum's annual Hummingbird Day festival on Saturday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Thousands of nectar-producing Grevillea, Erica, and Salvia blooms in the Arboretum fuel the tiny birds with liquid energy for their mating dances. Iridescent males erupt in flights to heights of 75 to 150 feet, pause, and then swoop down over the heads of attractive females, pulling up at the last split second with a sharp popping squeak. Some observers believe the sound is caused by air trapped under the male's tail feathers, while others believe it is a vocal call. Whatever the cause, the sound is distinct and impressive, especially considering its source--a tiny Anna's hummingbird that zips past in a blur of color.

A large population of Anna's hummingbirds lives year-round in the Arboretum, so visitors are practically guaranteed to see this mating display on Hummingbird Day. Careful observers walking the grounds might even spot a tiny nest tucked into the fork of a branch along the Hummingbird Trail. The hummingbirds are out in all but the worst weather, even in light rain. There is more activity than usual in March, when some of the migratory hummers join the resident Anna's hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Day will feature special programs for adults and children, including tours of the garden, slide shows, an art show, and children's crafts and stories (see schedule below). Hummingbird tours will be led by David Suddjian, wildlife biologist and leader of the annual Santa Cruz County Christmas bird count, and Tonya Haff, curator of UCSC's Natural History Museum. Stephen McCabe, coordinator of research and education at the Arboretum, will lead a tour on the Hummingbird Trail highlighting plants that attract hummingbirds.

Visitors will find lots of information on how to make their gardens hummingbird friendly. Before you sweep off the cobwebs from roof eaves, for instance, remember that spider webs are a prime nesting material for hummingbirds; they keep the tiny nests strong and warm. Many other interesting facts about these amazing birds will be presented during Hummingbird Day. Plants, books, and other resources will be available for purchase.

This year, for the first time, the event will include an art show: "Hummingbirds and Their World," featuring art and illustrations selected by Ann Caudle, coordinator of UCSC's Science Illustration Program, and Arboretum director Dan Harder. The virtuosity and imagination of the artists will inform and delight viewers of all ages. This exhibit will be held in the Horticulture II Building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (except during the 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. programs on Saturday).

The Arboretum is located off Empire Grade (the continuation of High Street) between the east and west entrances to the UCSC campus. Regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Hummingbird Day Schedule

Saturday, March 15

10 to 11:30 a.m. Hummingbird program, slide show, and tour by David Suddjian. Meet in Horticulture II Building.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hummingbirds and Their World, a juried show of natural science illustration and art in the Horticulture II Building. (Closed during lectures; open all day Sunday.)

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Children's programs. Craft activities and stories about wildlife and plants, held informally throughout the day. Meet outside Horticulture II Building.

12 noon. Plants that attract hummingbirds. Stephen McCabe leads a tour on the Hummingbird Trail. Meet at Norrie's Gift Shop in the Arboretum.

1 to 2:30 p.m. Hummingbird program, slide show, and tour by Tonya Haff. Meet in Horticulture II Building.

2:30 p.m. Plants that attract hummingbirds. (See noon tour.)

Videos will be shown in the Library between programs.