Keep feeding the birds
Last weekend was the St. Mary’s County Fair. I spent a good deal of time there with my family enjoying the rides, sampling delicacies like funnel cake and perusing the exhibits. My kids won a few ribbons (the high point of the weekend) and I may have accidentally bid on — and won — the wrong hog at the 4-H auction (the low point), but even with all the rain it was still a good time.
On Saturday night, after the sun went down, there was a distinct chill in the air and a slight breeze before the rain clouds rolled in. A sweater or sweatshirt wasn’t out of place at all. It felt like fall.
If you’ve been feeding the hummingbirds in your yard this summer, you may be wondering if now is the time to take down your feeder. No, not yet.
Leaving your feeder up will not entice these tiny visitors to overstay their welcome and stick around longer than they should. Hummingbirds have a sophisticated biological system that cues them to fly to warmer territory. As the amount of sunlight each day decreases in fall, they know it’s time to leave.
I’ve been keeping a close watch on my feeders and there are still many hummingbirds drinking from them. In fact, they seem to be consuming significantly more nectar the past few weeks. Maybe they know the journey ahead will require lots of energy. I’m refilling my feeders just as frequently as I was during the hot spells of the summer.
A good rule of thumb is to leave your feeders up for two weeks after you’ve seen the last hummingbird. Some stragglers from up north might still be coming through your area and appreciate a fill-up from your feeder.
I keep track of when I see the first and last hummingbird every year. I’ve never seen one before April 15 and the latest I’ve ever seen one is Nov. 1. So, if you can, keep the nectar in your feeders fresh through the month of October. At least the nectar won’t spoil quickly now that it’s cooler outside. You’ll only need to refill it once a week or as needed if you get some thirsty visitors.
No-mess seeds are available
This is the time of year people start to think about putting up a bird feeder. Colder months are ahead and if you put up a feeder now, you should have a steady stream of visitors all winter.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about bird feeders is the mess they leave underneath. It’s hard to avoid shells beneath a feeder if you opt to feed black sunflower seeds, arguably the best beginner food to attract the widest variety of seed-eating birds. But another option is to pick a no-mess seed blend for your feeders.
These blends contain already-hulled seeds and no fillers, so less of it ends up on the ground. They usually have names like fruit and nut and therefore attract some of the showiest birds like woodpeckers that otherwise wouldn’t likely visit a feeder filled with regular seed.