Welcome the smallest birds in the world into your yard.
A friend and ASE subscriber has attracted these small, exciting, long beaked, fluttering hummingbirds into her yard. They are the smallest birds in the world, typically 3.5” to 5” long and flap their wings about 80 times per second – creating the humming noise They can fly in every direction including upside down. I have followed my friend’s advice and I am putting out my feeders for the summer. It is a small investment of time and money with (hopefully) lots of avian enjoyment.
There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds and many migrate seasonally – to warm breeding grounds in the spring as the weather warms up and to avoid cold winters. They migrate individually, not in flocks. Once you attract them, individual birds can return to your yard year after year. You are beginning a relationship!
Google Maps provides this map upon which birders post ‘sightings’ of hummingbirds. Click on the link and scroll down the left-hand column to get to most recent hummingbird sightings near you. To plan ahead, you can look for sightings from the previous years to see when hummingbirds normally arrive in your area.
Hummingbirds look for flowers which produce lots of nectar and have a shape which accommodates their long bills. They are attracted to bright ‘flower’ colors, especially red. That is why so many feeders are red. Insects and pests like bees, wasps, ants and spiders can be attracted to your hummingbird feeder and contaminate the nectar. Choose feeders designed for long hummingbird bills which keep nectar out of reach for insects. Wasps and bees are attracted to yellow, but not the color red. Avoid feeders with yellow accents.
I am a little late in putting out my hummingbird feeders as the birds have already been in my area for a few weeks. I am hoping to lure a bird or two with attractive feeders and nectar. Here is what I have chosen:
I like the clear bowl at the bottom of this feeder so that I can see the nectar. Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder. $24.90
Audubon.org suggests that making a simple syrup from sugar is the best nectar for your feeder. “The best (and least expensive) solution for your feeder is a 1:4 solution of refined white sugar to tap water. That’s ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. Bring the solution to a boil, then let it cool before filling the feeder. You can make a larger batch and refrigerate the extra solution, just remember to bring it up to room temperature before you re-fill the feeder.” https://www.audubon.org/news/hummingbird-feeding-faqs
Rinse your feeder with hot water once a week or whenever the birds empty it. Hummingbirds will continue to feed on flowers, so you are supplementing their diet, but not making them dependent on your feeder.
If you are not the DIY type, this nectar has no red dye and includes electrolytes. Kaytee Nectar Ready to Use Hummingbird Food, 64 oz. $10.87.
You can hang your feeders from a branch or a stake. Some experts advise using a section of fishing line between the branch or hook and the feeder to avoid ants getting to the nectar. You are on your own with branches. Here are two stakes I am trying.
This powder-coated black metal stake with hanger is 6.5″ L x .5″ W x 43.75″ and has adjustable height settings of 22.5″, 33″, or 43.75″ which can be easily changed by removing sections of stake. Hummingbird feeder stand. $27.95.
Set of 2 Shepherds Hook Hummingbird Bird Feeder stands.
65 inches tall, half an inch thick. Hummingbird stands. $45.99 for the pair.
Hang your feeder in the shade to slow the fermentation of the nectar and attract fewer insects. Hummingbirds can fly into windows and their bills can get caught in screens, so keep your feeders at least five feet away from your house. If you place your feeder close to nectar producing flowers, you are more likely to attract hummingbirds.
Extra points for your next pub quiz or trivia night?
What is the difference between a bill and a beak? None. Experts say that the words bill and beak are synonymous – no difference. Others say that they use the beak for pointed songbirds and others with hooked bills.
Header Image credit: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ruby-throated-hummingbird#photo3, Photo: Paula Cannon/VIREO