Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bird feeding... Hummingbirds

Anna's HummingbirdFemale Anna's Hummingbird, Rood Bridge Park, Hillsboro, Oregon on 13 March 2009 by Greg Gillson.


The joy of hummingbird watching can be yours quite inexpensively. The Pacific NW has 6 regular species of hummingbirds. Rufous Hummingbirds arrive along the coast in February, and the other inland migrant species return by April. In northern California and from there northward to British Columbia west of the Cascades, the Anna's Hummingbird is a year round resident. It is even found through the year in several towns east of the Cascades with flowering ornamental plants.

Hummingbird nectar is simple: 4 parts water plus 1 part sugar.

Bring water nearly to a boil, then stir in normal table sugar. Make sure all the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then fill your hummingbird feeder and hang.

Some tips and myth debunking:

1) Empty the feeder and clean and wash every 3-5 days. Bring down the feeder immediately if the water becomes cloudy (bacteria) or grows dark mold. Use hot soap and water to clean your feeder. If necessary, soak feeder in a mild bleach solution to remove all mold from feeder. Rinse very well before refilling.

2) Fill feeders only full enough to last 2-3 days (bacteria will grow in 3 days if in sun or hot weather). The sugar solution you make will last in the refrigerator a week or two for refills.

3) Never use honey in your hummingbird feeder. The microbes that grow in honey when it goes bad are fatal to hummingbirds.

4) Red food coloring may or may not be bad for hummingbirds, but is totally unnecessary. Most hummingbird feeders have red on them. Do not use food coloring.

5) Feeding birds, including hummingbirds, will not over-power a bird's genetic code to migrate. Remember, Anna's Hummingbirds are year round residents in much of the Pacific NW and can survive several days of snow and freezing weather. Despite all the time they spend at your nectar feeder, the main diet of hummingbirds is insects.

6) Bring hummingbird feeders in at night in subfreezing weather, or hang near a porch bulb to keep it from freezing. But remember, hummingbirds feed most often at dawn and dusk. So wait until dark to take down, and put back up before it becomes light in the morning.

7) Finally, in case you ever were tempted to believe..., no, hummingbirds do not migrate on the backs of geese.