Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Early April marks the arrival of the first ruby-throated hummingbirds to our area. The first hummingbirds you see may be early migrants as they make their way north, or summer residents here to establish their territory. Many of you will not see hummingbirds until well into July. This is due to the fact that the birds are concentrated around their nesting areas and will not increase their search for nectar until the young have fledged. Nesting season takes place primarily in May and June but may extend into July and August.
FAQ’S ABOUT HUMMINGBIRDS
Why do I only see a few hummingbirds and some people see so many? The more nesting habitat available the more hummingbirds you will see. A single male Ruby-throated hummingbird may establish a territory as large as an acre. If you have a half-acre yard and your neighbor does too then you are probably sharing the same nesting pair. At peak time, July and August, many of our customers living in rural areas will attract upwards of fifty to one hundred hummingbirds to their feeders. According to Robert Sargent, author of “Ruby-throated Hummingbird”, the fall migration brings wave after wave of hummers through our yards. If you estimate the largest number of ruby-throats seen at your feeders at one time each day, then multiply that number by 5, you will get a good estimate of how many different hummers visit your feeder daily.
What is the proper sugar to water ratio for nectar? The proper nectar mix is 1 part ordinary table sugar to 4 parts water. Making the solution stronger, more sugar, is not useful to them. If they need more sugar they will feed more often. Do not use any other kinds of sugars and never use honey. Do not add food coloring to your nectar. Many dyes contain ingredients that can be harmful to hummingbirds. Besides, nectar that comes from flowers is clear and that is what hummingbirds prefer.
Look out for commercial hummingbird mixes that advertise added vitamins and minerals. These added ingredients are more attractive to the customer than the birds. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are high-speed, high-energy, bug-eating machines. They feed voraciously on arthropods for their vitamins and proteins.
Tip: Try taking a piece of over-ripened fruit and hang it in a suet feeder or potato sack. The fruit will attract fruit flies which the hummers will feed on enthusiastically.
When should I take my feeder down? There is no need to take your feeders down by a certain date. It is a myth that keeping your feeders up will keep hummingbirds from migrating. We can see Ruby-throated hummingbirds in this area sometimes well into October.
Do hummingbirds return to the same place each year? Male Ruby-throats show great fidelity to areas that have proven productive in past years. Hummingbirds will often be seen hovering around the spot where a feeder hung last season.
Tips for Hummingbird Feeding Success
Mix your nectar properly. Use a 1 part sugar to 4 parts water ratio. Bring water to a boil add sugar and dissolve completely. Let the nectar cool and then refrigerate. Do not add color or other ingredients. Regular table sugar is recommended and honey should never be used in your nectar. Making the nectar sweeter is of no benefit to hummingbirds.
Keep your feeders clean and the nectar fresh. Clean your feeder with a very mild bleach solution if it has gotten moldy. Otherwise, a mild dish washing soap and brush will do the job. Rinse well before adding fresh nectar. Fill your feeders accordingly. If hummingbird activity is slow do not fill your feeder completely. Only fill enough to last a few days. This will waste less nectar and your feeder will stay cleaner. In the heat of the summer nectar will only be good for 2 to 4 days.
Ants can become a problem at hummingbird feeders. For hanging feeders simply add what we call an “ant trap.” Fill the ant trap with water and hang your feeder. Like a moat, the ant trap prevents them from climbing down to the feeder.
Wasps and bees may discourage hummingbirds. Some feeders are designed to keep bee and wasp activity to a minimum. Taking a feeder down for a few hours at a time can disrupt the bees’ pattern and cause them to look elsewhere for sweet stuff. Vegetable oil dabbed on and around the feeding ports can be quite effective, too. Bees and wasps tend to not want to land on the oily surface and the hummers avoid it by sitting on the perch.
Hummingbirds show a strong preference for tubular shaped flowers. Keep this in mind when you go to the garden center. Red is a very popular color for flowers but the shape should be your first criteria in choosing plants to attract hummingbirds.