A Poem in Memory of Stiles Thomas
Sandhill Cranes at the Celery Farm

My Column: Hummingbird How-To

Darlene de Santis hummingbird 5.24 (1)Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been arriving at local feeders since late April. Photo by Darlene De Santis

My latest column for The Record is a hummingbird how-to. You can read it here:

By Jim Wright
Special to The Record | USA TODAY NETWORK - NEW JERSEY

  They started arriving in North Jersey backyards two weeks ago, TheRecordBergenEdition_20240509_F03_2-page-001those tiny bejeweled dynamos known as hummingbirds, and they’ve been showing up ever since.
  This makes me happy for several reasons.
  First, ounce for ounce, hummingbirds may be the most beautiful bird in North America, in part because they are iridescent and in part because they only weigh about as much as a dime. Although we usually get but one species here, the ruby-throat (as opposed to several species out west), the Eastern Hemisphere doesn't get any.
    Second, hummingbirds are the one sign of spring that remains all summer. Unlike the many birds that migrate past us and unlike the blooms that fade by Memorial Day, these beauties hang around.
    Third, you don’t need to buy or build a nest box for them. They build their own, and they often take a lichen to them.
  Fourth, hummingbirds don’t cost much to feed. A basic plastic feeder costs around $10. A pound of sugar and a gallon of distilled water cost maybe $3 each, and that should last several weeks.
      You may have noticed that I wrote “distilled” water. The one thing I always disliked about feeding hummingbirds was boiling the water to cut down on bacteria. I don’t know about you,  but I like to avoid using the stove in the summer.
    Here are some other free tips to make your hummingbird experience more enjoyable. I assure you, they’re worth every penny.
      *Since ruby-throats are territorial, put up several feeders. One birder I know puts up eight hummer feeders around her property. That way, the returning males don’t take over, and the females have enough food to nest nearby.
      *Hummingbirds are attracted to red, so make sure your feeder has plenty. It wouldn’t hurt to put up a hanging basket with red flowers as well. But there’s no need to dye the sugar water. It adds an unnecessary step – and unnecessary chemicals.
      *I’ve seen hummingbird feeders so tiny that you can feed the little dynamos almost literally in the palm of your hand. I’ve even tried these feeders. They’re great fun, but the novelty wears off, and I can’t afford to hire someone to hold that thimble-size feeder for me. It’s much easier to put up a few feeders, add sugar water and then watch these incredible creatures from a comfortable patio chair.
    Field Notes: New Jersey Audubon’s  47th annual Cape May Spring Festival runs from Thursday, May 16  to Sunday, May 19. I’m giving a talk about screech owls at 2:30 p.m. that Friday in the Grand Hotel, with a rare feathered special guest. I’ll also help lead owl prowls on Friday and Saturday nights and test-drive a thermal-imaging monocular from Zeiss. Attendance is by registration only, at www.njaudubon.org.
    The Bird Watcher column appears every other Thursday. Jim’s latest book, “The Screech Owl Companion,” was published by Timber Press. Email Jim at [email protected].