Cool weather this year has seemed to last forever. There have been a couple of days when I thought that spring was here, and just a few days later it would drop to the 40s. I’ve been worried that it would be the middle of May until we saw the jeweled treasures reappear from the South.
Then this week, I was out on the porch and heard the familiar buzzing. Could it really be? The flash zoomed by and I knew they were back. The hummingbirds are back and it’s time to get out the feeders!
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 either; 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 60-80 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. They lay two to three eggs (the size of a small jelly bean) in a nest about the size of half a walnut shell.
Nesting: When I was younger, I would ponder how siblings in the nest are not constantly ‘jabbing’ each other – and we think sibling rivalry can be bad, imagine if our kids were born with a dueling upper lip! When chicks hatch their beaks are very short and grow, as they grow.
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.