They’re baack! Flashes of brilliant, emerald green are whizzing through the garden. Chirping signals thrown out of streaking aeronautics like screaming firecrackers. It can mean only one thing – the hummingbirds are back in town!
Most hummingbird information will say that feeders in our area should be put out around May 15. I’ve always recommended May 1 for the early birds. However, for the last several years I have seen hummingbirds as early as mid-April.
Here are quick tips about these feathered jewels:
Feeders: Some male hummers venture back ahead of the females to get an early start on house hunting. There is nothing like the aeronautic feats and daring maneuvers around a feeder, it seems like the Red Baron has returned. The chittering that often accompanies these tactics is just as fun to witness.
You may want to consider putting up a second or even third feeder on different sides of the house. If they are too close together, the more aggressive bird can still hover around and dominate more than one feeder. Putting them on opposite sides makes this almost impossible and the other birds will have a chance to take a sip.
Nectar: While nectar is available in many stores, you can make the same thing at home for a whole lot less money. Bring to a boil a mixture that is one part sugar to four parts water. Once it boils and all of the sugar has dissolved, turn it off and let it cool completely. (Do not substitute honey as a harmful fungus can develop on the birds’ beaks.) Red dye is not necessary; red flowers will do more to attract hummingbirds than red dye. Last year, I had a reader comment that she didn’t bother to boil the mix, but I don’t think it would be nearly as sweet.
Ruby-throated: Feeding hummingbirds is the perfect time to admire their colors, feathers, size and wingbeats. In this region, we have the ruby-throated hummingbird; it is estimated their wings beat 60-80 times per second in normal flight, and up to 200 beats in courtship dives! (That is the equivalent of 25 mph in normal flight and 40 mph in courtship.)
Diet: For many years, I thought nectar was the only thing hummingbirds ate. Nectar is more like an energy drink. A hummingbird’s diet consists of small ants, spiders, gnats and other small insects.
Nesting: They lay two to three eggs (the size of a small jelly bean) in a nest about the size of half a walnut shell. When I was a child, I would ponder how the mama hummer would feed her babies – wouldn’t she be sticking them in the eye all the time with that long beak? Wouldn’t siblings in the nest be constantly jabbing each other? And we think sibling rivalry can be bad. Imagine if our kids were born with a dueling upper lip! Actually, when the chicks hatch, their beaks are very short and grow as they grow. It all works out!
I encourage you to try hummingbird feeding. Having bright red flowers nearby will also help attract them. Even if you live in the city, you can attract these incredible birds to your yard.
Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.