With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart: Hummingbirds and feeders

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hummingbirds and feeders

A young, female Ruby-throated hummingbird preparing to land on a feeder.

Season after season, the return of hummingbirds to our feeders and flowers thrills me.
I never tire of their dashing and flitting and will always be captivated by these tiny birds with iridescent plumage. 

Much to my disappointment, I never have lots of hummers at one time drinking at the feeders.  Only on occasion have there been two at the same time.  My birds are quite territorial and if a hummingbird flies toward the feeder while another is there, it will dart and both will zip away. 

Oh, but the excitement, when outside, and I hear the hum of their powerful wings over my shoulder or catch a glimpse of one as it flits behind me! 

Making a simple sugar mixture to keep the feeders full ensures we will enjoy hummingbirds throughout the season.  We have three feeders and make fresh nectar once a week if the temperatures are low and twice a week if we are having very hot/humid days.

I have always done this on the stove but just began using the microwave. Either way, it takes less than 10 minutes to make.
To Make Hummingbird Nectar

1 Pour 1 part white sugar into microwavable container or saucepan.
2 Add 4 parts water; stir.
3 Heat in microwave (about 5 minutes on high power) or on stove top just to boiling and sugar is dissolved.
4 Allow liquid to cool completely before filling clean feeders.

Nectar can be stored in refrigerator for 1 week.
Keep feeders filled with fresh nectar as fermented and cloudy nectar can be harmful.
There is no need to add red dye to the nectar to attract hummingbirds and may be harmful to the birds.
Hummingbirds feed 5-8 times an hour

When to set out the feeders:
I live in zone 6b (southern New Jersey) and we have the Ruby Throat-ed Hummingbirds. I set my feeders out April 1st each year and have seen hummers at the feeder as early as April 8th. To check the arrival date of Ruby-throated hummingbirds where you live, visit Hummingbirds.net for a map of 2014 migration.

As the end of the season begins approaching, around late August, we notice many more hummers and they begin looking chubby as they beef-up for the up-coming southern migration. I have read to keep feeders up, clean and filled at least two weeks after you see your last hummingbird in order to help stragglers.  I have seen hummingbirds, although infrequent, as late as October.

Hummingbirds are big eaters!  Because their metabolism is so fast they need to eat frequently to prevent starving.  It is very important that the nectar feeders be clean.
  • Once or twice each week, bring the feeders to the kitchen sink
  • Open (each is a little different in design) and pour out and remaining nectar.
  • Rinse under running water and using an old toothbrush or small bottle brush, wash/scrub away all traces of mold and dirt.  Do not use soap. 
  • Flush well with water.
  • Refill with cool, fresh nectar
  • Reassemble feeder container and hang again
As you can see, we have three different feeders.  We see hummers at all of the feeders but I think they enjoy the ones with a perch best.  The inverted bottle design is hard to clean and the round flat one is the easiest.

Since I seem to be most often in the kitchen (surprise, huh?), this feeder is at the back of the house and right outside the window over the sink.  We have only dappled, afternoon sun here and lots of trees so the hummingbirds freely flit from feeder to tree and back again.  

We have another feeder hanging on the front porch and I can see it as I sit at my computer.  The hummers will even visit while we are sitting on the porch chairs.

The third feeder isn't far from the porch, hanging in the bottom branches of a tree and they frequent this more secluded spot as well.

In addition to nectar from a feeder, hummingbirds eat tiny insects and visit tubular-shaped flowers, using their long, tapered bill to obtain nectar from the center.
There are many flowers you can plant in your yard to attract hummingbirds.
Here are some we have growing that hummingbirds frequent.  By far, the plant that is the biggest draw is the trumpet vine, however, be aware it can be intrusive by sending up many unwanted shoots  

Phlox, petunia, butterfly bush (Buddlija),
impatiens, hosta, trumpet vine,
morning glories, azalea, honeysuckle 
For more hummingbird loving plants, visit Birds & Blooms 
 The two birds on the right in the above photo are males as evident by the bright, red band around the throat called a gorget.   The dots on the throat of the bird on the left indicates it is not yet an adult. 
Notice the feet as the bird perches on the feeder.  Hummingbirds have very tiny legs and feet and cannot walk.
It won't be too much longer and our visitors will begin their long trek southward.
But I will be waiting for them again next spring!


Debbie Huffaker said...

Beautiful photography....your flowers are gorgeous! HOPE you have an awesome day!

Cheryl said...

Stunning photos of these gorgeous little birds!!

Debby Ray said...

Breathtaking photos of these lovely hummers! Ours are finally back after leaving us earlier this summer for several weeks! Couldn't figure it out but so glad we can enjoy them again!

Pondside said...

They are the most beautiful creatures, aren't they? I love to hear the buzz that means they're around. Like you, we have three feeders. Some years we leave them up as the hummingbirds don't always disappear from our island in winter time. Those that leave come back as early as February/March - such brave and sturdy little birds.

Lynn@Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

Fun pics! Enjoy them while they're here:@)

Adrienne said...

Your photos are wonderful! I can never capture hummingbirds with my camera. Most years we have a hanging fuchsia just outside our patio doors. Our hot tub is close by and I enjoyed the early morning visit of a sweet, little hummingbird as I sat in the hot tub early each morning. We didn't hang a fuchsia this year - so, no hummingbirds.

Susan said...

Ohhhh, LDH, your photos are spectacular. How did you ever get them without scaring away the hummers?

I am SO JEALOUS. I have a humming bird feeder hanging on the back porch but alas, not a single hummer has come to drink. Maybe it takes time for them to find it but now the season is almost over. Woe is me. Susan

Susan D said...

I love your photography and the hummingbirds are my favorite species of birds. When I lived back east the babies would get so close while sitting on my veranda. I truly miss them.

Blackberry Lane said...

Your photos are so sweet. We had flowers that attracted hummers at the home we shared with mother. She could not see them but she heard them and it delighted her every time!

lindsey said...

Thats amazing Lorraine, such beautiful photos too. If we had hummingbirds I would certainly be making that nectar!

Gypsy Heart said...

I love, love hummingbirds! Your photos are beautiful.


Just a little something from Judy said...

An EXCEPTIONAL post, with incredible pictures! So interesting! Thanks for the beauty it added to my morning.

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

How lovely! You got some beautiful shots. My girlfriend who lives in Qatar loves going home every summer to San Antonio so that she can reunite with all the hummers who come to visit her yard. :) Best wishes, Tammy

kitty said...

Thank you for all the information, Lorraine. I saw a hummingbird when I was out watering last evening. I certainly must get a feeder with a perch. They're so fun to watch!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Beautiful photos! I just love hummingbirds and I try to plant Black and Blue Salvia just to attract them which they are. They are so fast and hard to capture with a camera. Nice work!

podso said...

Your photos are stunning. Maybe if I had had your tutorial our HB feeder would have been more successful. I had it in the same place by the kitchen window. Actually we get them visiting our flower box there now from time to time.


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