Thousands of Newton County residents braved the 100 plus degree heat Saturday to marvel at the "flying jewel" of the animal kingdom at the third annual Hummingbird Festival at Gaither's Plantation.
Organized by the Georgia Hummers Study Group, the event has grown with each passing year attracting hummer enthusiasts from all over the state who come to admire the beauty of the tiny birds who can flap their wings as many 80 times per second.
"I think they're one of the most fascinating creatures in the world," said Georgia Hummers President Rusty Trump. "I've never met a person who doesn't like them."
Trump and his wife, Cheryl, were on hand Saturday morning to conduct a bird banding demonstration of ruby-throated hummingbirds before an eager audience. After placing a band on the leg of each one of the small birds - which weigh roughly one tenth of an ounce - Trump, would place the temporarily-still bird into the waiting palm of a festival attendee. For a few precious seconds the audience had the chance to admire the hummingbird close up before - upon realizing it was free - the bird launched itself into the sky.
Georgia Hummers bands the small birds to keep track of them when they migrate to South America for the winter. Cheryl said the ruby-throated hummingbirds typically return in late March to make their nests and hatch their young, feeding constantly throughout the spring and summer to regain the body fat they will need for the flight back to South America in the fall.
According to Cheryl, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird known to nest in Georgia. The birds are particularly attracted to the garden created for them at Gaither's which they return to year after year. The garden is filled with lantana, sage and black-eyed Susans, plants which are particularly attractive to hummingbirds.
Aside from the ruby-throated hummingbird which is the most common variety in the state, there are 11 documented hummingbird species which can be seen in Georgia according to Cheryl.
To attract hummingbirds Georgia Hummers recommends that enthusiasts place multiple feeders around their house, have a variety of plants in their gardens that the birds are attracted to for both food and nesting materials, provide a water source and hang red ribbons or red flowers around the yard as the birds are attracted to the color.
For more tips on attracting hummingbirds or to report sightings of winter hummingbirds visit www.gahummer.org.
Georgia Hummers Secretary Buddy Rowe estimated that between 6,000 and 9,000 people would visit the festival before its conclusion at 5 p.m. today - a record breaking number for the event which started out as a mere hummingbird picnic, attracting roughly 100 people in its first year.
Approximately 95 vendors, selling everything from Italian ice and funnel cakes to wind chimes and tree faces, will continue to sell their wares to festival goers today.
In addition attendants can partake in a tour of the plantation's main house or enjoy a hay ride. The festival also holds a kid's fun area with rock-climbing, pony rides etc. The final hummingbird banding demonstration of the festival will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Gaither's Plantation is located at 270 Davis Ford Road, off of Henderson Mill Road, just past the City of Mansfield.