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Hummingbird Season Begins!

FLICKR HUMMINGBIRDToday isn’t just Tax Day; it’s the official beginning of Hummingbird Season! Sightings have been reported in NC and parts of VA and you can monitor their journey here: 2014 Hummingbird Migration Map.

So it’s time to get your feeders ready, to greet these amazing birds after their exhausting journey – they need to bulk up! There aren’t many flowers blooming until next month, so they can really use some human help.

WHEN? Feeders should be installed and filled NOW, which is why we have ours on sale this week. We carry both Audubon and Cherry Valley brands, in glass and plastic, and also the window-mounted kind. Then leave the feeders up for at least three weeks after seeing your last hummingbird.

In the East, our most abundant hummingbird is the ruby-throated type. They’re very territorial, so to attract more than one you may need to use several feeders 30 feet apart, out of sight of each other. Here’s lots more about the Ruby-Throated, including what it sounds like, from Cornell.
HOW TO SET UP A FEEDER

  • Mix one part sugar with 4 parts water, boil to dissolve. Or use baker’s sugar, which dissolves in cold water. (Baker’s sugar is sold as Domino Superfine or C&H Baker’s Sugar.) OR buy the ready-to-go nectar sold at Behnkes.
  • Use an ant/bee guard to keep them away from the feeders. Or a bit of petroleum jelly over the pole the feeder hangs from will help keep those unwanted competitors away. Hornets in particular will aggressively hog the feeder. Ant guards keep sugar ants from trooping up to take nectar, and later trooping into your house for more. Some Vaseline on the cord or chain hanging the feeder works pretty well, too. It’s hard to keep the solution from dripping, though, so you might want to put a planter or, better yet, a water garden in a large ceramic jar right under the feeder. Or hang it out a little way away from the house so sugar ants don’t set up housekeeping too close.
  • A shady site will attract fewer bees and wasps, but also fewer hummers.
  • If you hang them in partial shade the nectar won’t ooze out and attracts ants.
  • Not much action? Add a red ribbon to feeder, though some people say any color will do.

MAINTENANCE

  • Clean really well before using, with Q-tip and vinegar-water.
  • Replace and clean every 2-3 days or more, depending on how hot it is.
  • Because sugar solutions cause mold with time, and mold can cause fatal infections in the birds, cleaning the feeders is important. Use very hot water, and rinse a lot. Or use vinegar or chlorine bleach in water (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water, or 1 part white vinegar to 5 parts water).
  • To remove black mold spots, advice ranges from special cleaning concoctions to putting uncooked rice in the feeder and shaking. I’m not making this up.
  • Have someone keep up your feeder while you’re on vacation.

FEEDER DON’TS

  • Don’t use food coloring or honey — bad for the birds
  • Don’t use honey — it ferments, and that’s bad for the birds.
  • Don’t use artificial sweetener — it has no nutritional value.
  • Don’t use turbinado sugar.

GREAT VIDEOS I love this video, though I can’t help worrying that the little guy might be slurping up red food coloring, which we know by now is a no-no. But guess what — he’s not drinking this stuff by sucking. I found out that hummers are actually LICKING. Really, really fast. These folks seem to know how to do it — with a red pipe-cleaner wrapped around a solution-filled tube.Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. This last one shows a hummingbird feeding its babies.

Posted by Susan Harris.

Hummingbird photo credit.

Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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