Hummingbirds – Tiny Heralds of Spring

By  | March 10, 2012 | Filed under: Life, News

Spring is close and my favorite iron bird is migrating back to the area.  Just think the tiny little hummingbird, weighing just ounces has crossed thousands of miles of the Gulf of Mexico to return to their nesting grounds in North America.  They have flown, not ridden on the back of Canadian Geese, and they will be hungry when they get here.  Most of the hummingbirds found in this area are the Ruby-throated species.  Other species may be seen during migration. With the warm winter we’ve had, reports of earlier than normal migration northward has been occurring.    According to the migration maps found at this link:

Ruby-throated have been sighted in Mobile and will soon be here, so get your feeders up and invite them to stay this summer at your place.

Please do not use the commercial red dye Kool-Aid stuff when feeding hummers. It’s not good for them.  Think Jim Jones (if this ‘was before your time’ Google Jim Jones & grape Kool-Aid).  If you have red on your feeder, that’s all you need to get their attention. Take one part sugar and 4 parts hot to boiling water. Mix well cool and put in your feeder.  Left over’s may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. When they first start showing up I only make up a small amount and don’t fill the feeder full. I’ll use one eighth cup of sugar and one half cup of water.  Change and clean the feeder every four days or so depending on the heat.  Don’t use detergent, instead rinse with hot water and use a 10% bleach solution to disinfect.  You’ll also have trouble with ants getting into your feeders and spoiling the sugar water.  Save your spray can tops and I’ll show you later how to make a simple ant moat.

In order to make hummingbirds want to stay around your place, and raise a family, you need to provide them with a source of plants for food. Sugar water is only part of the diet.

The following list includes those native plants judged by Operation RubyThroat to be the “Top Ten” plants for attracting hummingbirds: Trumpet Creeper; Beebalm or Oswego Tea; Trumpet Honeysuckle; Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis; Spotted Jewelweed; Red Columbine; Canada Lily; Indian Pink; Red Buckeye; Mountain Rosebay or Catawba Rhododendron.

Birds and Blooms Magazine top plant list: Cardinal flower; Red hot poker; Geranium; Flowering tobacco; Bee balm; Fuchsia; English primrose; Sweet pea; Trumpet vine.

Growing condition information of the B&B list is found at this link:

A couple of plants that I like are red salvia, daylilies, spider plants  and profession zinnias.  Butterflies are a bonus with the zinnias.  I know that’s four; I’m giving a bonus.

The nests about the size of a quarter are very hard to find. Females do all the work.  Mature males have a flash of red on the throat called a gorget.  Females and young males won’t have the red.  I have one that has nested in my weeping peach tree that has a bird’s eye view of the feeder at the end of the driveway for years and I’ve yet to find it. Construction is mostly moss, lichen, and spider webs.

When going bird watching, put on a dark T-shirt before heading out the door.  One thing I didn’t know as a rookie bird watcher was not to wear white. You’re more noticeable and scare off the birds. My first Audubon trip eagle trip I heard one of the seasoned members mumbling about another person on the trip wearing white.  The pictures, I used a telephoto lens on a tripod, and the camera set to sports.  Even then I’ll discard 80-90% of my shots.

 I have a couple of videos of the migrants last fall at my feeder for your pleasure.  One was taken about a foot away:

Click on the image for the video:

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The other video is from a few feet away so you can see how many are in the area around the feeder:

Click on the image for the video:

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