Be the Ultimate Indiana Hummingbird Host: Tips and Tricks for a Successful Feeding Season
Hummingbird season is officially upon us but before you think about putting out your feeders, you will want to read this first to make sure you aren't making any mistakes when it comes to providing important resources to our hummingbird friends.
Hummingbird Migration is in Full Swing
Hummingbirds are perhaps the most dainty and darling of all birds and every year they spend the cold winter months in Mexico and Central America to escape the blustery temperatures across most of the United States. These beautiful little beasts begin their migration back to the lower portion of the US as early as February and into the midwest and more northern parts of the country in the spring as they travel to their breeding grounds, according to Hummingbird Central.
Hummingbird Fun Facts
While absolutely tiny in size, hummingbirds can travel up to 23 miles in a single day during migration. That isn't the only impressive fact about our little friends.
- Their wings flap 15 to 80 times per second
- Their hearts beat up to 1,260 times in a single minute
- They pack on 25-40% of their body weight to sustain the physical demands of migration
- They fly during the daytime and they fly alone
Hummingbirds are commonly spotted throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee, but as the migration is happening, people actually help Hummingbird Central to track the migration. Fellow bird watchers report hummingbird sightings here. Then take a look at the map below to see where they have already been reported.
How to Be a Good Friend to Hummingbirds
So you're ready to set up your feeder to attract hummingbirds to your property, but do you know how to be a good friend to the hummingbirds? There are some things you really should know if you are new to feeding hummingbirds, and honestly, even if you are experienced, you might find some of these tips to be quite useful. Keep reading to learn more.
Keep Your Hummingbird Feeder Clean
Before you put your feeder out for the season you should wash the feeder thoroughly. Before you reach for that bottle of dish soap, know that the National Audubon Society warns you to avoid using dish soap. They say it can leave behind residue that is harmful to hummingbirds. Instead, they recommend that you use plain, hot tap water. If you do want to use something other than just hot water, they say you can use a weak dilution of vinegar and water.
The National Audubon Society also encourages you to empty and clean your hummingbird feeder at least twice a week, especially if it is hot outside. If the weather is on the cooler side, cleaning once per week is sufficient. However, they say if the hummingbirds are emptying your feeder more frequently than twice a week, you should clean the feeder every time you refill it.
Avoid The Red Hummingbird Nectars Found in Stores
Now that you have your feeder out and clean, it's time to fill it but don't rush off to the store just yet. Many commercial nectar solutions sold in stores are manufactured using red dye to act as an attractant for hummingbirds. Unfortunately, that dye may actually be incredibly harmful to our beautiful little winged friends.
Instead of buying premade, and artificially colored nectar, try this recipe from the National Audubon Society: Mix 1/4 cup of white sugar with 1 cup of water. On the stove, bring the mixture to a boil and then let it cool. You now have a safe and delicious nectar to fill your hummingbird feeder. You can use that same 1:4 ratio to make a larger batch that can be stored in the refrigerator. The National Audubon Society does advise that you allow any stored, refrigerated nectar be allowed to warm up to room temperature prior to being placed into your feeder.
Other Things to Avoid When Feeding Hummingbirds
Now that we know soaps and red dyes are not only unnecessary but also potentially dangerous, what else should we avoid in our feeders? You want to stay away from anything that is not plain, white sugar. Avoid brown sugar, honey, molasses, syrups, or any other sweetener - both natural and artificial.
How to Encourage Hummingbirds to Visit Your Feeder
Since hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, but we are avoiding artificial red dyes, a helpful way to introduce your feeder to any hummingbirds that may be nearby is to hang your feeder near any red or orange flowers you may have blooming in your yard. You can even plant flowers specifically to attract hummingbirds. The Audubon Society offers a handy resource to help you select hummingbird-friendly plants that are native to your area.
Other Tips to Make Your Yard a Hummingbird Haven
Now that you're ready to welcome hummingbirds into your yard, here are a few more quick tips to help you and the hummingbirds coexist.
1) Hang the feeder(s) in the shade. The sun and heat can cause the nectar to ferment.
2) If you hang more than one feeder, make sure they are not in line of sight of one another.
3) Make sure you have water available too. Aside from snacking on nectar, hummingbirds do like to bathe in dripping or misting water.
4) Nix the yard chemicals. While you may want to keep mosquitoes, ants, and spiders at bay, those insects are a dietary staple for hummingbirds, young and old.
Now that you are an expert in all things hummingbirds, take some time to enjoy the warm weather and watch your new friends that come to visit your yard.
[Source: Hummingbird Central; Audubon.org]