Migrant hummingbirds returning
Now is good time to hang feeders
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.