Ruby-throated hummingbirds are making their spring return…day by day more and more are being seen and reported. It’s an exciting time for everyone! We wait all winter for their return and like sand through an hour glass…here they come, slow but sure.
In preparation for their arrival here are a few reminders:
First, get those feeders out, dust them off, rinse them good and partially fill them with 1 part white table sugar to 4 parts water. Boil if you won’t drink your tap water or if you prefer to but MOST IMPORTANTLY – NO RED DYE. Hang one or two where you can view them. Keep the nectar fresh and feeders clean while you wait. Make note on a calendar when you see your first one…that way you’ll know for next year.
Male Ruby-throats will be the first to migrate in…they’re NOT SCOUTS they’re just the first migrants to find your feeders. I’m not sure where the idea of a ‘scout’ originated, but I’ve never seen so many folks call these first hummers scouts in all the years I’ve been doing this. By definition a ‘scout is someone or thing that comes ahead, finds what they’re looking for and returns to report what they’ve found to others. Hummingbirds DO NOT do that nor do they report to any other hummingbird. They are solo, selfish creatures who would like nothing more than to have that feeder all to itself. Recall what you witnessed last fall…the fights, the jockeying for feeders. That is the true nature of a hummingbird. Some folks have told me they ‘know all this’ and only use the word ‘scout’ in reference to the ‘first ones to show up’. Okay, I get that…but to others the word ‘scout’ means just what the definition says it is…and that’s spreading misinformation. Will it harm the hummers? No. But why not use proper terms and each opportunity to teach someone who aren’t familiar with hummingbird behavior the right ones?
Also remember that the numbers you saw at your feeders late last summer and early fall are NOT the numbers you’ll see this spring. It is fact, that across the whole avain world, only 1 in 5 fledglings will live to see their first birthdays. Sad but true and goes the same for hummingbirds. Many inexperienced birds will have perished and only adults and 1 in 5 juveniles will make it back. So do the math…statistically you will never see the number of ruby-throats at your feeders in spring as you do in fall. In addition these spring migratants are on a finite time mission in spring. They must feed and move on to their breeding grounds. To where they were born to mate and reproduce . They don’t need to hang out and ‘get fat’. That’s what we see in fall migration when the next generation of hummingbirds are on the ground ALL hummingbirds start the slow migraiton southward. It is inevitable that I hear each spring “where are all my hummingbirds”? Because we remember the feeding frenzies and not the weeks and months prior.
In addition it’s also good to know that the few birds that will stay in your yard, because they were born there, act very differently during spring breeding time. Females are busy building nests and reproducing…then sitting on her eggs protecting and incubating them most of the day and all night. Males are busy defending a territory and wooing the ladies. Then once nestlings hatch the females spends hours a day hunting food and feeding them…perhaps only stopping by your feeders for a ‘quick pick-me-up’ as they always prefer natural foods during this time…no one can live by sugar-water alone. 80% of a hummingbird’s diet are insects and the slurry fed to nestlings must be high in protein so they can grow. While the females are busy raising the young the males are still looking to mate with other females and by mid-July are already heading ‘back south’…having completed their job in the cycle of reproduction. I suggest keeping a dairy or field notes to refer to from year to year so as not to get caught in the worry and misbelief that ‘hummers are disappearing’…
Take good care of your hummingbirds with common sense practices. Keep feeders clean, nectar make correctly, fresh and clean. Avoid the use of ANY pesticides in your yard. Hummingbirds need soft-bodied insects to eat and by avoiding the chemicals you’re providing a healthy well-rounded habitat. And NO RED DYE…can’t say that enough.
If you have any specific questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact me directly…firstname.lastname@example.org