Right now, with the blustery wind that is flinging cold rain against the windows, I wouldn’t blame the hummingbirds if they just decided to stay in the South where it is already warm and sunny. In fact my oldest sister, who lives in North Carolina reported that the tiny bejeweled birds have been there for over a month.
However, my next oldest sister, who has been welcoming Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to her backyard gardens for many years, stated that she puts her hummer feeders out the last week of April. She ought to know how to do it, because hummingbirds literally stack up around her feeders like aircraft waiting to land. According to www.hummingbirds.net/map.html, there have been sightings in northwest Ohio already as early as April 8 this year. I haven’t seen any yet, however.
Nevertheless, over the weekend I rummaged around in the garden shed and brought out the feeders that were tucked away last fall. I washed them in warm water with a little dish detergent, rinsed them very well and allowed them to air dry. Meanwhile I prepared my tried and true formula for homemade hummingbird nectar.
The red tinted commercial varieties are not good for them. A simple syrup made with 1 part granulated sugar to 4 parts water is preferable. For the first batch, I add a tablespoon or two of extra sugar. Allow this mixture to come to a rolling boiling to kill bacteria. Allow to cool and fill your feeders. Keep unused nectar in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Never use honey, brown sugar or any other type of sweetening.
Hang feeders about four-feet high near a window (but not so near the birds may collide with the glass) or outdoor area where you can relax and enjoy the show. Make sure they are high enough so that while they are feeding cats and other predators can’t reach them. If placed in full sun all day the nectar may spoil more quickly. If placed in a heavily shaded area, the hummers may not see it. Make sure the feeder is level so the nectar doesn’t leak out and attract ants. A red ribbon tied onto the feeder pole or hook may help attract them early in the season. We also have a little humming bird perch hanging by one of our feeders because its location is not near any trees with overreaching branches. Even though they may be the busiest of the birds, they like a place to rest between sips.
Dump out old nectar and carefully clean each feeder once a week. If mold growth becomes a problem, wash with warm water with a couple of teaspoons of bleach added. Rinse well and allow to air dry before refilling. A day in the sun will also help kill molds and bacteria.
Plant for Hummingbirds:
While I do supplement with nectar feeders, the hummingbirds actually visit for the plants that we have in our landscape. These same plants are popular with other important pollinators such as butterflies, moths, and bees. The hummingbirds around here have an absolute, wings down favorite. It is the annual “Black and Blue” salvia, available locally in Defiance at Kircher’s Flowers. I plant them in pots and garden beds where they will receive full sun. Other popular annual flowers we have around here are red salvia varieties, lantana, impatiens, and petunias. Hummers are also attracted to many perennials such as hyssop, lavender, yarrow, liatris, coneflower, butterfly bush, monarda (Bee Balm) and catmint. Hyssop is not an annual, but I still pop them in large pots, as well as in the herb garden in back and the cottage garden in front. In the shade, hosta lilies, columbine and heuchera (Coral Bells) are also hummer attractive. There are other plants, such as trumpet vine, hollyhock and hibiscus that are hummingbird favorites, I just don’t have any growing at present.
Whether you are an old pro or just starting the fascinating summer hobby of hummingbird watching, Happy Hummering!