The hummingbirds in my yard intrigue me with their adorable tiny-ness, beautiful colors, darting speed and feisty personalities, as well as the cool way they hover and fly backward.
They are naturally territorial creatures, always chirping while pushing each other away from the hummingbird feeder and flowers. I’m amused when one manages to perch on the feeder unnoticed by its comrades, and it chugs and chugs that sugar-water without coming up for air.
Wanting to know more, I called Putnam County’s UGA Extension Office Coordinator, Keith Fielder, who said:
North American hummingbirds are migratory. Those seen in Georgia come from South Florida, the Carribean Islands, and Cuba, and migrate up the Eastern coast.
Ruby throated hummingbirds are 99 percent of the hummingbirds in Lake Country. The Rufous hummingbird also is seen in Georgia and has been known to overwinter here.
Attract hummingbirds to your yard by putting out hummingbird feeders the first week of March and leave the feeders out until the first week of October. In the early weeks, only partially-filled feeders are needed; increase the food as the numbers increase.
Don’t neglect the feeders! The hummingbirds quickly become dependent on them. Clean the feeder every two to three days, or every one to two days in the hottest months, and replace the sugar-water. Also, appoint someone to do this if you’re away. “If you don’t keep the syrup changed and keep the feeder clean, you’re probably killing them instead of helping them,” Keith said.
Control ant infestation by using a feeder that has a moat, and keep the moat filled with water. Keith also suggests a feeder with bee guards, “but if you only have two or three bees, don’t get too worried,” he advised. “All they’re doing is licking up the dribble left by the hummingbirds.” He also noted that hummingbirds are “voracious insect eaters” and need the protein provided by eating insects.
Leaving the feeder out after season’s end will not stop the hummingbirds from migrating. “They will migrate when they’re ready, feeder or no feeder,” he explained. Those migrating in the fall from farther north will remember where the feeders were located along their route, so removing the feeders may be harmful because it is essential for them to “refuel.”
In late October, Keith recommends leaving out one feeder that is partially filled and leave it out all winter for the Rufous hummingbird. Clean the feeder and replace the syrup on a weekly basis. That feeder will also help any early Spring migrators, he said.
Hummingbird food does not need red food coloring, and it is unnecessary and expensive to buy pre-made food. Make your own hummingbird food by dissolving one-part white cane sugar into four parts warm water. (1/4 cup sugar in 1 cup water; or 1 cup sugar in 4 cups water; etc.) Keep refrigerated when not in use.
Flowers that attract hummingbirds include: Trumpet vine, any salvia, Aftican blue basil, gladiolus, bee balm, pineapple sage, honeysuckle, petunias, or any other trumpet-shaped flower. Hummingbirds also feed on any other nectar-bearing plant.
Story by Lynn Hobbs, video by Katie Marie O'Neal, photo by Jill Cardone
Published in the July-August 2021 issue of Lakelife magazine.