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Thursday, January 29, 2015

hummingbirds



Right now while the Northeast portion of our country is getting hammered in several feet of snow, it's probably hard to think about spring and warmer weather but it's right around the corner. Warmer weather means that many of the hummingbirds who made their way down to Mexico for the warmer temperatures will be heading back to our areas for the spring and summer months.


Starting in mid February, the hummingbirds start showing up at our house. We've been feeding them for the last three years and so as soon as they make their way back to town, they're checking out my yard to see if I have food for them. We usually get a few Anna's, Costa's, Black-chinned, and occasionally an Rufous and Calliope.  Our front yard tends to be a mini airport from sun up to sun down.  My husband and I like to sit outside at the table on our front porch and watch them and they've gotten very use to our being around them. (All the photos on this page are taken here in our front yard to give you an idea of how comfortable they are with us sitting there taking pictures of them).

We keep several hummingbird feeders in our front yard, each with multiple ports allowing them to
feed. Hummingbirds are very territorial and will fight over feeders so we find that having two or three feeders spread out helps with the fighting. There are many great commercial feeders out there but I tend to prefer glass feeders opposed to plastic because I live in a very hot, sunny climate. The glass doesn't turn cloudy like plastic and it's easier to clean.

Feeders should be cleaned at least once a week and your feeding solution changed out. This is important because the sugar solution will spoil and bacteria and mold will grow on the insides of your feeder. Once a week, I take down my feeders, regardless to how much solution is left inside it and I give them a thorough cleaning with hot water and vinegar before I refill them and hang them back up.


So what do I feed my little friends?  Well, there are plenty of commerical solutions available both premixed and in powder form that you just add water to. I do not like any of these. For one, they are expensive and for two, it is unclear if the red dye used in these solutions are safe for hummingbirds. Hummingbird solution is extremely easy to make yourself and you only need two ingredients: sugar and water.  The solution you put in your feeder is only a supplemental source of food for hummingbirds who get most of their nutrients from bugs and nectar from flowers, so basically you are just providing a quick and reliable source of energy for them so don't be too concerned about buying solutions that provide protein, ect.

I tend to use the 1 part sugar to 4 parts water ratio when making sugar solution for my feeders. I try to only make enough for what I need for my feeders at any given time so usually this equates to 1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups of water which fills my feeders.  NEVER EVER use anything beyond regular sugar in your feeding solution - do not use honey, food coloring, sugar substitutes, brown sugar or jello in your feeders.   In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then mix the sugar into it, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved into the water.  Remove from heat and allow the sugar water solution to cool to room temperature. (Putting the  solution into you feeder could cause the sugar to crystallize not to mention could cause thermal damage to your feeder).  Once the solution is cooled, then fill your feeder and hang them outside in an area that's easily accessible to your feathered friends but also high enough for them to safely visit without threat of cats and other predators. I tend to hang mine under the eaves of my front porch so that they are high enough for safety but keep them a bit cooler in the shade then if they were out in the sunlight.

Beyond feeders, a hummingbird garden is an excellent way to attract birds to your feeder. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, so don't worry about finding flowers that are really fragrant in an effort to attract them.  Instead, find plants that are brighter colored and are high nectar producers. Many places that sell flowers and plants have their plants tagged for being attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies but some great suggestions would be  Cardinal Flower, Latana, Columbine, Fuchsias, Impatiens, Petunias, Honeysuckle, Geraniums, Butterfly bush, and Azaleas.

My hummingbirds tend to come and take sips of sugar water all throughout the day but they are most active early in the morning and late in the evening (about an hour before sun down).. Their acrobatics in the air are always a hit with my kids and make great bird watching subjects for any bird units in homeschooling.  I do hope you will consider adding a feeder to your hard this spring and inviting them into your lives :)

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