by Susan Heath
If you haven’t noticed the hummers are here! Sugar is flying off the shelves and here at GCBO we are getting lots of calls asking if we have any hummingbird feeders. Yes, the jeweled warriors with a sweet tooth, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, have arrived. September is the time of their southward migration along the Texas Coast and we are all constantly getting distracted by their antics outside our office windows in our new building. Weighing in at only 3 grams, they are a terror in the air and definitely not candidates for good behavior which is why I often say they don’t work and play well with others. Sharing is just not their thing.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds breed as far north as central Canada but spend the winter in Mexico and Central America. In order to keep up their two home strategy, they have to fly as much as 1000 miles twice a year to and from their breeding grounds. There are no jet airliners involved in this journey and they don’t migrate on the backs of geese as some myths contend! Fortunately for us, the Texas Coast is smack dab in the middle of their flight path. Some will follow the coast around, but others will take the shorter route straight across the Gulf of Mexico. To meet the energy demands of this flight, they can double their body weight with fat in a matter of days by bulking up on nectar from flowers and feeders and from eating insects.
If you are interested in enjoying the hummingbird migration, come by GCBO on either Saturday September 13th or 20th, from 8 until noon. We will be holding our annual Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza where you can watch hummingbird banding, sit in on informative talks about hummingbirds, buy hummingbird plants, and even symbolically adopt a Ruby-throated Hummingbird of your own. They make great Christmas presents!
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern U.S. while there are 15 species that breed in the western U.S. While we are inundated with southbound Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the fall, during the winter, we are home to several species of western hummingbirds including Rufous, Allen’s, Broad-tailed, Calliope and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds. Sometimes we get other species too but Rufous are by far the most common. We’ve already had a Buff-bellied Hummingbird arrive at GCBO and set up his/her territory in one of our gardens. The Ruby-throats will mostly leave, but the western hummingbirds will be here through March.
If you want to encourage hummingbirds to frequent your little patch of nature, I encourage you to plant native plants that support hummingbirds and to put out hummingbird feeders in your yard. Fill the feeders with a mixture that is four parts water to one part sugar, and change it every 4-5 days. There is no need to add red food coloring as the birds will be attracted to the red on the feeder and there is some evidence that the food coloring is not good for the birds. Not only will you help out the birds, but you will get many hours of enjoyment watching them.