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700 Helmet hummingbird feeders floating around North America

Can you not stand sitting feet away from amusing hummingbirds as they steal sweet nectar from your feeder? Inventor Doyle Doss solved the age-old problem by devising a red face shield that serves the sugar water from a tube between your eyes. Since 2008 he says he’s sold about 700 of these. So while people may be freaked out to see one, hummingbirds may actually begin to recognize what they are and come right over.

Doss has some serious, boring inventions and then a side-line in goofy stuff like the face feeder, which he came up with after a hummingbird hovered in front of his red bird.  “A hummingbird came out of nowhere and just hung there, two inches from my nose,” he says. “My immediate response was, I froze. I never forgot the experience. It was such a magical type of thing.”

Decades later, Doss took a professional welding face shield and covered it in a red pattern that hummers love. Then he put a rubber tube between the eyes to be filled with sugar water. The birds came. This isn’t the first attempt at a hummingbird helmet. This adorable video shows a little girl watching hummingbirds in the more popular variety–and initially flinching and scaring them away.

The face shield serves to draw hummers in (they love red) and to make humans confident they won’t get their eyes poked out. Hummingbirds are so agile, they’re not going to go bumbling into your face.

Doss says the tube was the hardest part to figure out. During the northern California spring, when three or four hummingbirds may be buzzing the helmet, he may refill it more than once a day. In winter he can skip a day.

The reason people are both fascinated with hummingbirds and frustrated in seeing them is their speed. They may only be there 15 seconds, but if they’re an inch from your eye, you can really drink up the details. “You can actually look into their eyes. You can appreciate their tiny little feet. They have the smallest feet because they never walk. You see markings, so you can see this one’s not that one. You see them feed, then back up and look left and look right.” While the person wearing the hummingbird helmet can distinguish between individual hummingbirds, the birds are oblivious to which person is behind the mask. That means, once the birds in your yard get used to eating from a red helmet, they’ll feel at home when your visiting friend wears it or they see some other guy wearing a helmet 100 miles away.

As he nears 700 of the $80 feeders sold–mostly in the US and Canada, although most hummers are in Latin America–there’s getting to be a chance that hummingbirds will start to recognize the feeders, which will make them even more fun to own.

Check out the “face to face” feeder

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