Friday, 7 January 2011

Latest Buzz: Man Invents Wearable Hummingbird Feeder

Jan 3, 2011 – 7:18 AM
Bird-watching may seem like a boring outdoor activity, but with the help of a man in Northern California, the age-old hobby may once again take flight.

Doyle Doss, a wildlife photographer from Eureka, Calif., has the birdwatching world abuzz thanks to an odd invention he created in his cow barn for his small company, Doss Products.

After spotting a bunch of hummingbirds hovering near the silver dollar eucalyptus tree in his yard, Doss decided to create a gadget that would capture the constant visits from his flying friends in a new, extremely personal way.

He invented something called the Eye 2 Eye (or, for the emoticon crowd, ":--2<:"), a wearable hummingbird feeder in the form of a bright red face mask, complete with a special feeding tube between the eyes that dispenses sugar water to hummingbirds.

Doss told AOL News that the point of his unusual wearable bird feeder is to bring humans closer to nature.

And, really, you can't get much closer than a hummingbird all up in your face.

Doss said he designed the mask with a fond memory in mind. About 30 years ago, he had his own eye-opening encounter with a hummingbird that seemed to be attracted to his bushy red beard.

"That moment was magical for me, and I wanted to share that experience with others."

So, along came the Eye 2 Eye mask, which is as simple as it sounds.

Doss said you strap it on, adjust it to fit your face, pour sugar water inside the plastic feeding tube and wait for the hummingbirds to swarm to you.

"It's based on those typical safety face shields that one might wear while working a grinding wheel. It's very light and comfortable. The clear eye holes are made of polycarbonate, so you won't miss any of the action," he explained. "I paint every single mask red because hummingbirds are attracted to the color red."

Doss said the birds are initially drawn in by the bright colors on the mask. Once they discover the sugar water, they're hooked, and will return time and time again, often with friends.

"Hummingbirds are the alcoholics of the bird world," he said with a chuckle. "You can't get between them and the bottle. They are ferocious when it comes to getting that sugar water. We try to make the mask as attractive as possible, but once they realize there's food in there, that's all they're thinking about."

According to the inventor, the hummingbirds' addiction to the sweet stuff is beneficial to humans because then we get to experience the unique face-to-face encounter with the fast-flying, buzzing creatures.

"You can see their tiny feet, look in their eyes, see their colors. It really is magical. My landlady tried it and told me it was like seeing an angel. I have to agree."

To add to the experience, Doss said the inside of the mask is painted with a tranquil forest scene, which aids in the feeling of being one with nature.

He figured that the forest setting would be a good break from the stresses and surroundings of the real world.

"You get to lose yourself in nature for a while, which can be really nice," he added.

Although the mask itself does most of the work for you, there are a few key things to remember when trying to have precious face time with a hummingbird, Doss said.

For starters, he said, patience is a must, as it will likely take a few attempts to get the birds to realize that the mask contains sweet nectar.

"You have to condition the hummingbirds to recognize that the mask is a place where they can find food. I recommend people leave out the mask in their yard at all times so hummingbirds start coming to it regularly. Then, when you want to put it on, sit in the same position where the feeder usually sits -- not higher, not lower. The birds will remember where the food is and come straight to you."

Doss said sitting still during the encounter also helps.

He also noted that the best time for human-to-hummingbird meetings is in the spring, when the birds are looking for extra fuel to add to their diets.

"The male hummingbirds get very territorial over the feeder, so they literally fight to get in your face. That's when I see lots of ruby-throated hummingbirds in my yard in California and rufous hummingbirds."

It seems many other devoted nature lovers will be seeing the same sights as Doss in their yards.

Since launching his wearable hummingbird feeder last fall, Doss said he's sold more than 400 handcrafted masks out of his cow barn at $79.95 a pop, and the orders just keep on coming.

He said it's being purchased by all kinds of people, although, naturally, bird lovers are taking a special liking to it.

Though he's busy keeping up with the high demand, Doss said he's also constantly thinking of prototypes for other nature-related inventions.

But, admittedly, some of his latest ideas have been a bit bird-brained.

"I don't think my wearable eagle feeder is going to work out too well. You'd need a whole hamburger for that feeding tube," he joked. "The wearable grizzly bear feeder has also been shelved. At least for now."

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