They’re back – flashes of brilliant, emerald green whizzing through the garden. Chirping signals thrown out of streaking aeronautics like shrieking firecrackers. It can mean only one thing – the hummingbirds are back in town.
Most hummingbird information will say 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.
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.
Ruby-throated: Feeding hummingbirds is the perfect time to admire their colors, feathers, size, and wing beats. In this region, we have the ruby-throated hummingbird; it is estimated their wings beat 60 to 80 times per second in normal flight, and up to 200 beats in courtship dives.
Diet: For many years, I thought that nectar was the only thing that 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? Actually, when the chicks hatch, their beaks are very short and then 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. Happy trails!
Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.