The Buzz on Hummingbirds

A ruby-throated hummingbird feeds at a traditional red hummingbird feeder

Hummingbirds still bring a thrill to me when I catch a glimpse of one at a feeder or flower.  I’ve seen the same reaction in seniors, and toddlers, parents, and school-age kids.

What is it about these tiny birds that endears them to us?

Is it the fact that these birds love nectar, making them more like butterflies than the worm-devouring robins?

Or, could it be their darting flight patterns, hovering bodies, or wing beats so rapid that they look a blur? Those behaviors make hummingbirds the helicopters of the bird world.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that we enjoy their presence and try to attract them by providing feeders and nectar-rich flowers.

Do Hummingbirds Prefer Red?

Have you observed hummingbirds visiting flowers for nectar?

If so, you know the answer: hummingbirds visit all flowers, from white to deep purple.

The benefit of red, orange, or yellow is that these colors are easily spotted by these swift movers as they fly by in their quest for calories.  Once the birds discover your nectar stash, whether a flower garden or feeder, they’ll be back.  You can count on it.

Feeding Hummingbirds Is Easy and Inexpensive

Feeders are everywhere, and they needn’t be red and yellow, though you can get one of those traditional varieties at the Dollar Store (I did) for, well, a dollar.

Just don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to purchase “hummingbird nectar,” or that it must be red. Neither is true.

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

It’s simple: 4 to 1.25.

Okay, that was a joke, sorta.  Nectar content of flowers varies, with the average at about 26% sugar. The traditional recipe is 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup sugar, which would be on the lower end of sugar content.  I add a touch more sugar, sometimes up to a ratio of 3 parts water (3/4 c.) to 1 part sugar (1/4 c.).  Studies have shown that some species of hummingbirds prefer a mixture of 50% sugar to water!

The increase in sugar content is especially appropriate when the birds have just migrated north from Mexico (March-May in our area) and their fat stores are low; or in the fall (August-September) when they are building fat stores for their migration back to warmer climates.

For detailed information about hummingbird migration in the U.S., visit Hummingbird Central.com

Do You Boil the Solution?

You don’t need to boil the water if you use regular white granulated sugar and tap water.  Just change it when the weather conditions are warm and humid, and mold starts to grow in the feeder.

You’ll need to check the feeder to determine how often you should clean and change the solution.

Don’t use sugars other than granulated white. Other sugars (raw, organic, brown), food dyes, and honey, are not recommended, as they may accelerate bacterial growth.

What If I Stop the Feeding?

The same principles are in play with any bird feeder or wild animal feeding station.  The animals will move on to another food source.

But, if you think about it, you are adding stress when you feed wild animals and they come to rely on you as a source, and then you remove that food.  So, it is worth thinking about how dedicated you will be before deciding to feed the birds, or any other wild animals.

Once your feeder is in place, sit back and enjoy the show.  You will find enjoyment and entertainment for practically free.

Sources:

https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration.htm

https://www.audubon.org/news/how-make-hummingbird-nectar

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/migratory-birds/hummingbird-nectar-recipe

http://blog.hannainst.com/measuring-sugar-content-in-hummingbird-nectar/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I would just love to have these jewel-like birds in my garden. They’re almost like insects when flying. The closest bird we have is the Eastern Spinebill, but although it flies quite fast, it doesn’t hover to anywhere near the same extent.

    1. Yes, they are really something, but you have quite a menagerie “down under,” as well!

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