Spring brings hummingbirds
Yahoo ... Spring is just around the corner , thus hummingbirds will be around that corner, too! Seeing the first one of the season always brings a smile!
On a recent trip to South Padre Island, Texas , I attended a seminar entitled “Hummingbirds of Texas.” The seminar was held at the Birding & Nature Center on the Island. The speaker was master hummingbird bander Kelly Bryan.
Bryan lives at Fort Davis ,Texas, on the western , mountainous side of the state. His residence is in the Christmas Mountains area. He manages a live hummer cam at his feeders for viewing at westtexashummingbirds.com.
Bryan shared some general informative hummingbird behavior and feeding facts:
• When hummingbird feeders are hung in clusters, less fighting will occur.
• If you prefer making your own nectar for the feeders, use lukewarm water to dissolve sugar, no dye. Store that extra nectar at room temperature. Refrigeration encourages mold. The nectar provides their carbohydrates, eating insects provides protein, thus a balanced diet.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the midwest’s common variety. There are 339 species that thrive in very diverse environments from southern Alaska to the Caribbean, lowland forests of Brazil to the 15,000-foot snow line of the Andes.
Bryan advised hanging strips of cotton sheeting in your yard to encourage nesting. Hummers will strip the fabric for use in a nest. It would be such a pleasure to have a hummingbird nest in our yard scape!
A hummingbird lays two eggs, the size of Tic Tacs, per nest. Females produce two, possibly three broods each year.
Common predators are feral and house cats, snakes and praying mantis.
Hummingbirds are excellent pollinators! The hummer feeds off of the nectar in many flowers and as it sips away, it gets the pollen on its head and beak. When it moves to the next flower, the pollen is then transferred while feeding!
The hummingbirds and I enjoy many of the same flowers. I plant hyacinth beans, calibrachoa, fuchsia “Gartenmeister Bonstedt,” salvias and honeysuckles for hummingbirds to feast on ,while feeding on the fly.
Bryan advised us northern people to leave our feeders out in the fall as long as possible. As the hummingbirds are migrating from the north to the south, they will need nourishment to continue the journey. They can withstand temperatures as low as 0 degrees !
The banding procedure is very interesting and serves many purposes. The hummingbird traps are rectangle shaped with a feeder hanging inside. When a hummer lands on a feeding perch, the door closes. The bird is then banded, weighed, measured and examined. The bands weigh 2 grams and have five numbers and one letter for identification. Records are then made of the age, sex and health.
Bryan has a network of fellow banders who track movement, populations and life spans. To date, 12 years of age is the longest living hummingbird! The shortest living varieties are albinos. They are too vulnerable for predators. To understand the reasons for albinism or leucistic in birds, read “Birds & Blooms,” March 2016 article by David Mizejewski.
I hope that some of this information is helpful and useful as we await that first, precious sighting of a hummingbird ! Happy viewing!
Gerri Lyon is a Jefferson County Master Gardener.