All pictures are my own. And yes, I'm no professional wildlife photographer.
Picture of "Fantail" making a quick pitstop.
With the Spring almost upon us in many areas, Hummingbirds are expected to return from Central America. From what I've read, Hummingbirds will return to locations they nested near last Spring and Summer in North America. Until I spent more time home, less time commuting, and working remotely due to the pandemic, I never realized how much fun it could be watching hummingbirds come to your flowers and feeders.
For years I had an unused feeder in the garage. We had purchased a low cost one after our daughter's class trip to a wildlife research and education center. However, I never "found the time" to make the solution and hang the feeder. "Found the time" seeming silly to me in retrospect given we had up to 4 feeders last summer, ready to refill solution (aka nectar) on hand in mason jars for our thirsty new friends, and one excited child-like Dad who would run outside with refills while talking to his new pals.
Picture of "Red" on perpetual guard duty from our screened in deck.
What started with 1 male red colored hummingbird last March became 9 total hummingbirds (3 red males and 6 green females) by the time they departed in October. Of course we were compelled to name them all! For the males it was Red, Big Red, and Little Red. For the females it was Grace, Fantail, Butterball (that one made me check to make sure there was not too much sugar in the feeding solution), and then we had to go with Green 1, Green 2, and Green 3 because we could not tell them apart.
The reason why we wound up with 4 feeders is each of the 3 males would lay claim to a feeder and guard it. I mean guard it like a military post in all sorts of summer rain, wind, and thunderstorms. I've never see a bird do that before. Sit on the feeder hook in pouring rain while the feeder sways in the wind. Theses red coated little super soldiers would also chase away all of the females. They all seemed to be burning their precious energy doing more fighting than feeding. So adding the 4th feeder gave the females their own sanctuary for ladies night. The males would still try to claim that one too, but it created like a comedic shell game effect that always allowed someone to feed.
A really big surprise was how brave they are. They would fly right up to me while I refilled the feeders. Even sit on the hook about 2-3 feet away from me. One time I thought I was being buzzed by a bee and it was actually the hummingbird circling my head. They would even hover near our heads and faces from time to time. Now we never interfered with them nor tried to hold them. And 99% of the time we observed them from the screened in section of our deck.
We could also tell they had nested in our trees. The nests being too small to actually see and up in dense trees about 30 feet off the ground, but we saw them return to the same spots in the trees.
In addition to feeding from our feeders we would also watch them visit and feed at the various flowering plants and bushes in the yard. So yes, some will say I shouldn't be feeding them and interfering with nature by providing home brewed nectar, but I will say that in doing so it has taught my family and I more about hummingbirds via both observation and reading online about them. A small takeaway, but a positive one nonetheless.
Picture of "Fantail" and "Grace" at the drive thru. Near miss after Grace failed to observe the 10 MPH speed limit.
Here are some tips if you have hummingbirds in your area and wish to try feeding these amazing, beautiful, and brave little birds...
Tons of feeders out there. We purchased the lowest cost ones with the ant moat from our local store. I think they were less than $7 each. If you like something glass and shiny like a red vintage bottle that also decorates your yard, there are plenty out there to choose from.
They also featured a perch for the hummingbird to stop flying to feed. A feeder we tried prior forced them to feed while in flight similar to a flower. I don't know if they need that kid of a rest area pit stop, but they sure seemed to not mind the quick break.
From what I read, as long as the feeding "port" is red, they will be attracted to it and know what to do.
Picture of one the "Greens" patiently hovering and waiting on me for a freshly refilled feeder exchange.
We can make our own feeding solution, or nectar, for them based on the many online recipes and recommendations...
- 1 part white granulated sugar
- 4 parts boiling water
Let it cool of course before attempting to pour. I think that's common sense, but just in case...
Personally we use large mason jars with the measurement indicators on the side to easily get the ratio correct. I cap the rest with a lid of course so the sugary sweet solution does not attract insects in your home. I refrigerate any excess.
If all the nectar is not consumed within a week, I empty the feeder and clean it out with some hot (not boiling) water and dish soap. I use a brush to clean the feeding ports. Then I refill again for hanging.
Picture of Ladies Day at Feeder 4. The large tree in the background is Hummingbird Estates.
Hang & Wait
The fun part. Hang your feeder with nectar solution and wait.
The first time ours was out for several days. We happened to be eating lunch outside on the screened in deck on a still day, when all of sudden I noticed the feeder was swaying a little. I mentioned it was moving to my wife and daughter. Soon afterward we heard a buzzing noise like a large bee and my wife said "Look!" and there was a red hummingbird at the feeder. As we all turned toward him, we startled him away, but he was back in no time.
And from that day on until October he was out there everyday, every time we sat outside, every crazy rain storm. He would even fly up to the screen as though to look at us or possibly complain to the chef that the nectar was do for a change.
Picture of Fantail, Grace, or one of the Greens checking if I finished the refills yet.
The downside of course to hanging any sugary sweet solution outside is that ants, wasps, and other insects love it too. So be prepared for that.
We switched to the ant moat style feeder because our original feeder would become overrun with ants. The ants would actually clog the feeding ports and many would wind up drowning inside the solution and float around like sugar ant soup.
Wasps and yellow jackets would also come to feed. In fact I even watched Red and a wasp duke it out over a feeder, chasing one another round and round. So be careful grabbing the feeder to change nectar and clean. Make sure all insects are off the exterior.
And finally, the worst was the Blue Jay. I can tell you I was incensed as though someone was attacking our own family. It appeared a Blue Jay in the yard started to raid the hummingbird nests.
For a few weeks in the summer the Blue Jay would dive into the trees where we watched the hummingbirds retreat to. Then there would be a big commotion. So I researched online and read how Blue Jays are known to raid hummingbird nests to steal their eggs. I was mad. These were our adopted yard pets and new quarantine friends. I revenge fantasized about somehow teaching that bird a "you don't mess with the family" kind of lesson. Perhaps I could ask Randy Johnson to come over, pitch a fastball, and then in one blue feathered explosion there would be peace in the yard again. Of course none of that happened and eventually the raids stopped and the Blue Jay left.