My Column: Here Come Hummingbirds
'Birds of the West Indies' in Action!

My 2016 Hummingbird Column: Lots of Info


May 5, 2016 

   Now is Hummingbird Time. If you haven’t put up a feeder, what are you waiting for? 

   These inexpensive feeders provide great looks at these dynamic tiny birds, and all they require is sugar water. What a deal.

  Because squirrels deflowered my last feeder (they either removed or ate the little yellow-plastic buds), I had to buy a new one.  While I was at it, I thought I’d get two. 

   After all, I really enjoy watching hummingbirds, and if I’m refilling one with one part sugar and four parts water, I might as well fill two feeders while I’m at it.  Since hummingbirds flit from sugar source to sugar source, I figure both will be put to good use.

   The first feeder is the conventional flying-saucer-shaped one that I will hang on a  feeder pole that has a baffle to keep squirrels away.  The last thing I need is a hyperactive squirrel on a sugar rush.    

    The second feeder is one of those cool suction-cup window feeders. They provide up-close viewing of these little gymnasts, and I think our cat Pook has seen enough birds and squirrels at the window not to have a conniption.

   My wife will no doubt plant more red-blooming native plants like cardinal flowers again this spring (and hope the deer don’t destroy them) so that the hummingbirds can hang around the yard even longer.

    Here are two important hummingbird feeder tips to make your life easier.

    Tip One is standard -- don’t dye the water red in hopes of attracting hummingbirds. The feeders themselves are red, so no point in gilding the lily. Buying special red-colored hummingbird nectar is a waste of money, and adding red dye to  is a waste of time.

    Tip Two is a bit unconventional: Instead of boiling the water for the concoction to impede mold growth, use distilled water. The goal of boiling water is to delay its fermentation by removing impurities. Distilled water costs less than a dollar a gallon, and you can prepare a large batch that should last you a week.

    Fun fact: There really is no such thing as a fun fact unless you are under the age of seven or are too easily amused.

    Interesting and Mostly True Tidbits:  Almost every hummingbird you’ll see at your backyard feeder in North Jersey will be a ruby-throated hummingbird. The males wear bright ruby bibs because they are sloppy eaters. The females do not need them.

  Rare hummingbirds have been seen in New Jersey and New York City in recent years, but … if you think you saw a rare one in your backyard, don’t flatter yourself or get too excited. In all likelihood, it’s a ruby-throat, and that still ain’t chopped liver. 

   If you do find a rare hummingbird in your backyard, please take a photo and let me know. I’d love to be proved wrong.

   Hummingbird bird feeder basics:  Put up your feeder as soon as possible. If the hummingbirds aren’t in your area, they will be any day.

   Change the water every few days, especially when the weather is hot and sunny. Otherwise, the sugar water will ferment.   

   Keep your feeders up for two weeks after you see your last hummingbird in the fall -- there may still be migrating hummingbirds in need of a pit stop.