Saturday, April 11, 2015

It's Hummer Time!

After a cold, dreary winter, we're READY for our hummers to return. We live in that part of the country that only sees Ruby-throated hummers and only in the summer. We saw the first one on April 8. Not a lot around here yet, but this is the week they will be showing up. The BirdCam is set out daily so that we don't miss the fun as they repopulate our yard.

Now is a good time to get your feeders all cleaned up and ready to use. Nectar must be changed out regularly, every 5 days or so this time of year. The mix is 1 part of cane sugar to 4 parts of water. You can boil the water if you have chemically-treated water, and then add the sugar. We have well water so we don't boil it. Prepared nectar will keep in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

Do NOT use red coloring or the red pre-mix nectar. These pictures were shared by a hummingbird rehabber. It took weeks to get the red off the bird. They will wear themselves out trying to preen the red color off themselves. If you want to help them find your feeder(s), use red ribbon or fake red flowers. Some scientists believe that the red dye is extremely harmful to their internal organs. Since a hummingbird weighs about the same as a dime, even a small amount of dye can do serious damage. You won't see the damage it causes; they will go off and die somewhere else.

You also won't see the damage you cause by letting your nectar get cloudy or moldy. But the fungus that develops on their tongues will eventually prevent them from eating and they will die of starvation. Do NOT use honey, or Kool-Aid, or Jell-o, or beet juice or any of the other wild concoctions I have heard of. Cane sugar and water. That's it. Clean feeders thoroughly before refilling.

Hummingbirds don't need us or our feeders. They can get along fine without us. We put up feeders so we can enjoy watching them. But the first rule is DO NO HARM.

If you will be gone for an extended period and you have no one to tend to your feeders for you, take them down. Hang them back out after you get home and the birds will re-find them. Do NOT leave nectar unattended because it WILL go bad.

Hummingbirds will also check most anything red to see if it is a food source. This includes the emergency release pull on an electric garage door opener. PAINT IT A DIFFERENT COLOR OR COVER IT WITH A DIFFERENT COLOR TAPE. If your garage door has been left open for a while, check for errant hummers before you close it . They will fly in to check out the taillights, the red cooler on the shelf - anything that catches their eye.

If you find yourself on South Padre Island in Texas, visit the Birding and Nature Center. Besides being an absolutely fabulous Center, they carry Ozarklake feeders. The Dickinson and Wait Craft Gallery in Shepherdstown, WV, just received a new shipment of items. And The Flying Pig Gallery and Greenspace in Algoma, WI, has some new items. The Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum in Harlingen, TX, carries Ozarklake feeders in the gift shop. And Tar Heel Trading Company in Duck and Corolla, NC, just received a new shipment of feeders.

Hummingbird fact for today: Some species of hummingbirds will travel 1,000 miles to reach their breeding grounds.