Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Hummingbirds!

Yes, it's certainly time to put out those feeders; this morning I observed 4-5 hummingbirds, including at least one FOS Black-chinned Hummingbirds!

Black-chinned male

As stated before, I can easily tell the difference between Broad-tailed and Black-chins at my feeders because Black-chins are smaller and are certainly quieter. While both males have greenish backs, the heads of Black-chins seem to be darker, the 'black' wraps up to or just above their eyes and further back on their a bit of a helmeted look. I've read the Black-chin is the least colorful of hummingbirds found in the US...but I'm here to tell you that when the light hits him, the black chin of the so named hummer glows a brilliant and stunning purple.

Of course, the most popular way to tell the difference between these two birds is to keep in mind Black-chins are 'tail-pumpers', a behavior you cannot miss while watching them. In flight of course, it is the 'cricket-chirping' sound of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird in flight that will let you know they're around.

Things to remember about feeding hummingbirds:
  • Keep the feeders clean; when sugar-water ferments it can kill birds
  • Never use honey or artificial sugars; both can kill
  • Early in the season, only fill feeders 1/4-1/3 full and toss what is not used every 4-5 days
  • Late in the season, begin filling feeders fuller but continue to toss what is not used every 3-4 days in very warm weather
  • Every month or so, after cleaning with soap & water, soak the feeder in a 10% bleach solution. I use a 5-gallon bucket 3/4 full of water and toss in almost half a cup of bleach. Soak the clean feeder for about five minutes, rinse in clean water and let air dry before re-filling. More info can be found here
  • Don't use packaged nectar mixes; they include unnecessary red-die which is neither good for humans nor birds. Save money and make your own...

Hummingbird nectar: Bring a quart of water to boil, mix in a cup (or slightly less) of granulated, white sugar; bring back to a 2-minute boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar; cool, pour into a clean pitcher, cover and store in refrigerator. Fill clean feeders only as full as will be consumed in a few days.

Black-chinned female

Oriole nectar is often made a bit less rich; using a cup of sugar to six cups of above. However, making nectar is not a even fluctuates within plants.

Having said that, consider that the birds depend on the water-content in the nectar as much as the sugar itself. Hummingbirds prefer a 4-1 or even 5-1 (in hot weather) ratio of water to sugar. Too rich a mixture has been hinted to cause liver damage and affect reproductive success.

You can find more of my own hummingbird posts and photos here.

Photos (above) from Wikipedia
These and other photos available, with more information, at Google Images here


Bosque Bill said...

It is extremely important to insure that you rinse away all possible soap/detergent if you clean that way. I've read recommendations to not use soap at all, but only bleach, which is the technique I use.

I have not seen the Broad-tailed hummer since his early appearance. I now have about 4 - 6 Black-chins. I've two 4-port feeders out now (filled only part-way, as you suggest.) By next month I'll have 3, by mid-summer four totaling 20 feeding ports. Oh, Boy!

Beverly said...

You make a good point, but I'm always careful to rinse well. It is my belief soap cleans, bleach sanitizes...but perhaps that's just a word game, I dunno.

I continue to have several of both hummers in the yard now. I have three feeders out, and is my wont, will have 3-4 times that by summer. I think my middle name should have been 'Overkill'...but that said, I rather enjoy seeing 50 or so hummers buzzing around the yard. As you've seen in my photos, all those feeders seem necessary, as all ports are full much of the time.

I've spread out the feeders a bit more this year...all of them. There are hundreds of birds in my yard at any given can't be good to crowd them. I'm happy to say I've only seen one or two 'sick' birds this year; perhaps more feeders further apart helps. Well, that and cleaning them! (can't stress that enough, can we?)

Good birding, Bill; I'll have to go see if you've logged a new bird lately. They seem to be coming fast, all of a sudden.