The hummingbirds in this part of the country are Ruby-throated hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are fascinating because they are so unique and everyone loves to watch these tiny birds as they effortlessly hover and fly backwards with wings that beat over 50 times per second.
About this time every year the 2 or 3 hummingbirds that have been visiting your feeder just exploded into many more. We have counted as many as 20 hummingbirds at one time either on or hovering for a spot on one of our two feeders in late July or early August.
The extra hummers are the new babies that are just now out on their own. They don’t look like babies because hummingbird babies are actually bigger than their mothers by the time they leave the nest (the mothers have lost weight trying to raise a couple of hungry kids on their own since male hummers play no part in feeding the youngsters like bluebird fathers do). Juvenile males don’t usually get the iridescent red throat feathers until next spring so all of the extra hummingbirds look like the females. At our 2 feeders one mature male has claimed one feeder all for himself while 15-20 female and juvenile hummers share the other one.
By the way, hummingbirds don’t just live on the sugar in flower nectar or from our feeders…they eat lots of insects and spiders for the protein that they need. The best formula for your feeder is 1 part white cane sugar per 4 parts water. This formula approximates the 21% sugar content of most nectar. Make it sweeter and you will get more bees and ants. And remember to clean and refill the feeders about every 3 days or the formula will spoil in warm weather.
Last year my wife was able to get a hummingbird to land on her finger and eat sugar water out of her hand. But it took 4 hours of patience (Nancy’s, not mine) and I didn’t get a picture because I fell asleep on the couch waiting for the event to unfold.
Usually by about early October all the Ruby-throated hummingbirds are gone around here. Actually the males leave first, as early as August. The juveniles and females leave later. Most Ruby-throated hummingbirds winter in Central America and return to this part of
Don’t worry about leaving your hummingbird feeders up too long. The birds know when to migrate by the length of daylight…they won’t stay too long. Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrating from further north or other hummingbird species migrating through may use your feeders. Rufous Hummingbirds sometimes migrate through here as well as 3 other species.
Hummingbirds sometimes get in a garage and have trouble getting out because they tend to fly up to look for an opening. Hang a feeder at the door opening and the bird may come down to refuel and then head out instead of in. Supposedly, you can minimize the chances of getting a hummingbird in your garage by painting the door release handles black instead of red since bright colors (like flowers) are what attracts the little guys.
Keep those feeders full and clean because the hummingbird population explosion is happening now. I hope you enjoy watching our smallest bird as much as I do.