Mi­grant hum­ming­birds re­turn­ing

Now is good time to hang feed­ers

The Covington News - - Agriculture & Outdoors -

FORSYTH — Ruby-throated hum­ming­birds and other avian ac­ro­bats are re­turn­ing to Ge­or­gia from their win­ter­ing grounds to the south. Ruby-throated “hum­mers” may travel more than 600 miles from Mex­ico to Ge­or­gia.

“If you haven’t al­ready seen a ruby-throated hum­ming­bird in your back­yard, you should soon,” said Jim Ozier, a Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion pro­gram man­ager with the state’s Wildlife Re­sources Di­vi­sion.

Fol­low­ing the long, gru­el­ing mi­gra­tion, this diminu­tive bird must seek out about half its weight in food ev­ery day. Typ­i­cal body weight of a ruby-throated hum­ming­bird is 3 to 3.4 grams. To main­tain their high me­tab­o­lism, hum­ming­birds must feed fre­quently on high-en­ergy food sources such as rich but eas­ily di­gested nec­tar, or tree sap that col­lects in yel­low-bel­lied sap­sucker for­ag­ing holes. Hum­ming­birds also need pro­tein, which they ob­tain by eat­ing tiny spi­ders and small soft-bod­ied in­sects found on flow­ers or in sap­sucker holes in trees.

Hum­ming­bird en­thu­si­asts can pro­vide rich food sources for th­ese travel-weary vis­i­tors by plant­ing coral hon­ey­suckle, columbine, bee balm and other na­tive plants, as well as by putting up hum­ming­bird feed­ers. Pe­ri­od­i­cally clean feed­ers, mak­ing sure that all molds and bac­te­ria are re­moved. But do not use harsh clean­ing agents. Feed­ers can be eas­ily cleaned in dish­washer or with mild soap and warm wa­ter.

Re­fill hum­ming­bird feed­ers ev­ery few days with a sim­ple mix of one part sugar to four parts wa­ter. For best re­sults, bring the wa­ter to a boil be­fore adding the sugar and then con­tinue to boil three to four min­utes, al­low­ing the mix­ture to cool be­fore fill­ing your feeder. Re­frig­er­ate un­used por­tions.

Home­own­ers who seem to en­joy the great­est suc­cess in at­tract­ing hum­ming­birds com­bine the use of feed­ers with plant­ing flow­ers that pro­duce an abun­dance of nec­tar. When plant­ing flow­ers for hum­ming­birds, in­cor­po­rate flow­ers that bloom from early spring through fall. Flower gar­dens will also at­tract a variety of other en­joy­able nec­tar­feed­ers such as but­ter­flies.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, “lost” mi­grant hum­ming­birds not con­sid­ered na­tive to this re­gion are seen at feed­ers. To re­port un­usual hum­ming­birds seen in your back­yard, please con­tact Wildlife Re­sources’ Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion at (478) 994-1438. In­for­ma­tion sheets on Ge­or­gia’s hum­ming­birds can be found at www.geor­giaw­ildlife.com.

Ge­or­gians can sup­port con­ser­va­tion projects for hum­ming­birds and other nongame wildlife by buy­ing a wildlife li­cense plate fea­tur­ing a ruby-throated hum­ming­bird or a bald ea­gle and U.S. flag for their ve­hi­cle, or by do­nat­ing to the “Give Wildlife a Chance” state in­come tax check­off. The check­off and nongame li­cense plate sales are pri­mary fund­ing sources for the Nongame Con­ser­va­tion Sec­tion, which re­ceives no state ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

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