By Cyndi Routledge|2023-06-03T14:30:58-05:00June 3rd, 2023|Categories: CR Blog|Comments Off on Are jelly feeders safe if you feed hummingbirds?
As humans, we naturally want to provide for what we love including wild birds that visit our yards and bring us pleasure. Hummingbirds top that list. By now we hope you know the most important aspect of feeding wild creatures is to do it correctly as to not bring harm. In the case of hummingbirds, keep feeders clean, keep nectar fresh, never add red dyes or additives and make your own nectar using the recommended 4 parts water to 1 part cane sugar. Sugar water feeders have the potential of attracting orioles and once you’ve seen the bright yellow/orange of this beautiful bird you want to provide for it as well. Grape jelly and orange halves are the food of choice when it comes to feeding orioles. But is it safe to have jelly feeders in plain few if you’re trying to attract hummingbirds and feed them too?? This question has been proposed many times this spring, so I thought I’d address it here with a common-sense approach.
It is never a good idea to feed any wild animal artificial sugars or flavorings as it has the potential of making them ill. So before dishing up any jelly read the label. If it contains ANY artificial sweeteners or flavorings DO NOT to use it.
Additionally, it is best to use a feeder designed for orioles when putting our grape jelly and place them away from your hummingbird feeders. This will not stop hummingbirds from seeking them out because hummingbirds will be attracted to the jelly not only for the sweet treat but also the insects the jelly will attracts. It is important to hang them where you can watch and monitor them. Why? Well hummingbirds have weak feet and griping a slippery surface is difficult for them. If they inadvertently slip into unattended jelly it will result in grave consequences if you’re not watching and quickly rescue them.
A good rule is to NEVER use random dishes of jelly and the smaller the ‘lipped’ dish the better. A saucer of jelly may work for an oriole, but not for a hummingbird. Use common sense and always ask yourself, “is this container ‘safe’ for my hummers?” If the answer is no, or you don’t know, then don’t use it.
Instead, use fresh orange halves. They are a much safer choice. Orioles love them, they attract small insects which hummingbird love and you’ve all but eliminated the potential for a hummingbird disaster.
**Photo credit to Raptor Education Group and KUDOS for the great rescue and rehab!
Winter hummingbird season got off to an early start but in the end was slower than the last couple of previous years. The severe cold snap just prior to Christmas also presented challenges for both host and hummingbird. However all and all it was a good season and as always we THANK you for leaving out feeders, calling us when you saw or heard about a winter hummingbird, continued to spread the word about winter hummingbirds and lastly but NOT least took care of your special visitor with care and love.
2/25/22 – Memphis, Tn. Shelby County – SY male RUHU
8/24/22 – Buchanan, TN Henry County – AHY male ALHU
11/13/22 Chapmansboro,TN Cheatham County – AHY female RUHU
11/22/22 Nashville, TN. Davidson County – AHY female RUHU
12/11/22 Fairview, TN Williamson County – HY female RUHU
12/11/22 Nashville, TN Davidson County – HY female RTHU
Return banded birds –
9/27/22 Paris, Tn Henry County AHY male RUHU (2nd winter)
9/29/22 Nashville, TN Davidson County Female RUHU (3rd winter)
11/3/22 – Madisonville, TN Monroe County AHY female RUHU (2nd winter)
11/4/22 – Carthage, TN Smith County – AHY female RUHU (2nd winter)
Reported but NOT banded – (various reasons…from 1 day ‘wonders’ to host not wanting them banded to access)
9/18/22 Nashville, Tn Davison County – host Melissa James RUHU – Picture ID
9/23/22 Ethridge, TN Lawrence County – host Jim Lawrence RUHU – Picture ID
10/6/22 Dekalb County – host Tommy and Virginia Curtis – RUHU – Picture ID
1/5/23 Colliersville, TN – Shelby – picture at feeder.
Our season ‘officially’ ends on 15 March so keep watching and please let us know if you see a hummingbird at your feeders between now and then.
*All hummingbirds that were captured and banded were done so with all the proper State and Federal permits.
The 2022 Ruby-throat migration season is coming to a close. The last of the hummingbirds are trickling through and will continue to do so for a few more weeks however our banding season has come to a close. It was a successful season because of our hosts and volunteers. I couldn’t do this work without each and every one of them.
Here’s a short summary of our season:
We banded 2020 ‘new’ Ruby-throated hummingbirds at 25 hummer host locations, including repeat visits to 6 of them, from June 22nd thru September 14th.
We recaptured 172 return ruby-throats from previous years, including THREE six-year-old females and TWELVE 3-year-old hummingbirds.
We attended and did banding demonstrations at 6 hummingbird festivals in TN, KY and MS.
I did 4 hummingbird presentations both in person and on Zoom.
We traveled 3,549 miles and spent ~180 hours ‘in the field’.
We had a crew of 9 wonderful regular volunteers, my fantastic SPAC crew and an assortment of willing and able hosts.
We had a surprise visit from an adult male Allen’s Hummingbird at the home of Linda Fields on August 24th.
We are taking part in a study about the affects of pesticides on hummingbirds and Dr. Lisa Tell from UC Davis Vet School in California visited with us in September and we collected the first feathers samples for this study.
All records have been turned in to all reporting agencies.
New bands have been ordered for next season and permit renewal applications have been filled out where needed. In other words, we’re already preparing for next season!
But before I get too ahead of myself, a reminder that winter hummingbird season is just around the corner. We hope you’ll consider keeping at least one feeder out this winter in hopes of getting one of those rare western hummingbirds. And if you do, we hope you’ll give us a call and allow us to come identify it and band it for our collaborative continuing winter hummingbird study. And speaking of…we had our first paper published on that very subject. Here’s a link if you’re so inclined to read it. https://tnbirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/29764-TOS-Migrant-Mar22-r4.pdf
Again, my sincere and most heartfelt THANKS to each of you. I am most grateful.
….is the most received question I’ve been asked this season. It’s a complicated question and not one that has a simple answer.
First, one needs to consider the species of hummingbird. Since each has unique and specific needs and habitats. For instance those species affected by the ongoing drought and fire, in the West, are most certainly exhibiting lower numbers due to the longevity of these conditions. Some hummers purely don’t survive these conditions and perish. And when adult perish reproduction numbers are lower. Pretty simple math. If you start with 10, lose 5 and only replace 2 you have a lower number. Some indicators from the fires and ongoing drought include but are *not limited* to observations we saw last season when adult male rufous hummingbird left breeding grounds earlier and started showing up on migration grounds weeks earlier than usual. Reports from Alaska this spring reported fewer males returning and in some instance females getting there first. Is it a trend or just an odd year? We do know from studies that Allen’s, Rufous and Broad-tailed hummingbird numbers have been on the decline since 1970.(https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-97889-x)
Here in the east *generally* speaking Ruby-throated hummer numbers seem to be ebbing and flowing depending on the location. Both ends of the spectrum have been reported to me…from seeing none to seeing more than ever. Some of this ‘loss’ is truly loss which might be due to the unavailability of natural food sources and nesting sights while some can be attributed to folks remembering the hectic time of migration and not remembering from year to year that they don’t have those ‘big’ numbers in June and early July. For exmple, I had one host home in particular that always had large numbers of hummingbirds. Then 300+ house were built directly behind their property and numbers fell off significantly. An obvious disturbance to natural food and nesting sights but some changes can also be subtle and still affect your population.
One of those subtle changes could be as simply as more folks feeding hummingbirds. We know for a fact that during the COVID lockdown many more people began feeding birds in general. A simple by-product and explanation for fewer birds at your personal feeder might be due to greater dispersal over a neighborhood or area. For instance if you were the only one on your block feeding and now every other house is doing so, hummers are going to take advantage of the *new* food supply and use all the feeders congregating less at yours. I’ve witnessed this at many of my host homes over the last 2 years. What I’m watching, is if overall these ‘despersed numbers’ continue to drop, stay steady or increase? Since you can’t truly *declare* a downward trend based on a single yard or group of feeders.
Then there is the larger more disturbing trend – pure loss of habitat both here in the US and on the wintering grounds. It can and does influences numbers and bird survival. There is also the ever increasing obstacles birds encounter during migration which in and of itself is a perilous journey. We know both are having a huge effect on all other migratory species so why not hummers?
There is also lifespan or longevity to consider. If a hummingbird’s life span is 3-5 years and within that span of time we have a natural disaster like a hurricane just as birds are arriving on the coast or massive wildfire during breeding time…eventually that one incident will have an affect as the birds reach the end of their natural life and we will see a ‘dip’ in the populaton. Remember in the natural world whether you’re a hummingbird or a bison you need to at least ‘replace’ yourself year after year for your population to remain steady.
With all this said, we do know specific species are in trouble, are declining. The more specific their habitat, food needs or migration journey the more they seem to be in ‘trouble’. Luckily for ruby-throats they are considered to be the most adaptable of the hummingbird species. But that doesn’t mean we’re not watching and aren’t concerned. However we do need to be careful *not* to declare or panic about hummingbird numbers based on observation from just one or two seasons.
Finally, please know that *we* researchers are watching and are taking note and when we truly know something we’ll be sure to report it. In the meantime, keep nectar fresh, feeders clean, plant more flowers native to your specific area and don’t use pesticides. All these things can and will help hummingbirds.
They’re back! Our Ruby-throated hummingbirds are returning as I type. I personally have had one since April 3rd…pretty much on time for us. Feeders were up, fresh and waiting for them.
For those who are yet to hang feeders…it’s time. Time to rinse them out, make that nectar; 4 parts water to 1 part white cane sugar – NO RED DYE and get them hung. Monitor them, keep then clean and fresh ALL SEASON.
It’s also a good time to work on planning what flowers you’ll be planting and getting those flower beds ready to go. The weather has been so crazy this year that I’m truly waiting until AFTER 15 April to plant anything new. Hopefully by then Mother Nature will have made up her mind and spring will truly stick around.
Remember when planning those gardens think “3”. Flowers that will bloom now, flowers that will bloom in the middle of summer and flowers that will last until 1st frost. It’s a pollinator’s dream…and you can help make it come true. Limit or better yet totally do away with pesticides…hummingbirds need protein in the form of soft-bodied insects especially during nesting and baby raising time.