Tag Archives: hummingbirds

It’s Spring…Have You Done This Yet?

feeder2-3360Guess who’s headed north? It’s that time of year again when the ruby-throated hummingbirds are heading back from their long migrations to their northern homes to breed and raise babies. You can check out their progress here to see if they are in your area yet.

Are your feeders out yet? If not, it’s time to put them out! The sooner the better as birds finding feeders on their way might be tempted to stay and nest if they find suitable food sources nearby.

My hummingbird feeders. I have 5!

My hummingbird feeders. I have 5!

Here’s a recommendation I have for a couple of great hummingbird feeders:

  1. My very favorite feeder is a suction cup feeder *that has a built in ant moat. I own two of these and love them! The moat keeps the ants out and the suction cups allow me to have it mounted on my second story office window where I can watch the birds feeding all day long. It is less than 6 feet from my chair so I am at eye level when the birds visit. They don’t usually seemed phased at all by my presence if I sit still. I never tire of watching them, and getting this close-up look is fabulous. If you have young kids, they will love this… or if YOU are a kid yourself, you will love it! (You can see this feeder in action here if you want)
  2. This hanging feeder works great in the garden or on a hook on your deck and you can add an ant moat that sits above the feeder. What I most love about this one is that it comes completely apart for easy cleaning. When it comes to feeders, this is SO IMPORTANT as many do not open and so it is impossible to clean them, which means mold grows and can harm the birds. Another plus of this feeder is that it has no yellow on it. Know why this is good? Because bees, yellow jackets and other insects are attracted to yellow. There is no reason to use yellow when the red parts attract the birds.

So you probably know you can make your own nectar–saving some money and NOT supporting the red dye products that may be harmful to the little birds. Just mix up four parts of water to one part of regular white granulated sugar. You do not need red dye!

Here are some previous posts I wrote about feeding hummingbirds:  If you’re not doing THIS, you may be causing hummingbird deaths: 8 things you need to know, or why you should NOT use red dye, and one more about attracting hummingbirds, including some plants to offer, and the recipe for making nectar. And then, just in case you want to be amazed, read this one about 10 things you may not know about hummingbirds. Or check out this 1 minute video of a male hummingbird–what a brilliant red gorget!

Don’t you just love these amazing birds??

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you buy something using one of the links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All of the opinions about these products are mine. I only feature products I own, or would own.

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On Those Hot Summer Days, Don’t Forget…

Believe it or not we are already almost halfway through the month of July! Is your summer flying by?bird-0908

Has it been really hot where you live? Do you enjoy sitting in the shade on hot summer days and watching the world go by? Don’t forget about your hummingbirds at this time of year! Immature birds are now likely visiting feeders with the adult birds–you can tell the males by the “5:00 shadow” on their throats. Click here for a puzzler that featured this.

Hang them in the shade!

Hang them in the shade!

On these hot days the nectar in your feeders ferments quickly and harmful mold can grow on them too. Did you know that by putting your feeders in the shade you can make the nectar last longer? Also, it is probably nice for the birds to rest in the shade rather than full sun.

Did you know hummingbirds have the fastest metabolism of any animal on earth? Or that they are the only birds that can fly in place and upside-down? To learn more about hummingbirds, click HERE. To learn more about how best to provide food for them, click HERE or HERE for 8 things you need to know about feeding hummers this summer. Want to see a video of some birds at my feeder? Then, click HERE! 

Happy hummingbird watching! They sure are amazing little birds!!

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If You’re NOT Doing This, You May Be the Cause of Hummingbird Deaths: 8 Things You Need to Know

Hey, hey, guess what!

The birds are back in town!!

Woo hoo the ruby throated hummingbirds are back!!! Have you seen one yet?

I have not seen one but have been frequently checking the spring migration map and know they were spotted in NC on March 19th. At my house in the woods, I don’t usually see the first ones until the first week of April but every year I am ever hopeful for an early arrival! You can check out the map to see when you might expect them in your neighborhood.

Do you love to feed and watch the hummingbirds?

Do you clean your feeders REGULARLY? Are you religious about watching for and eliminating BLACK MOLD? Do you change the nectar OFTEN during the hot summer months?

If you answered yes to those questions you have nothing to worry about, but if you answered NO to any of the last 3 questions, you could be causing the death of the birds you so love to watch! 

It is a sad reality that biologists have been seeing a deadly fungus infection in the hummingbirds that causes their tongues to swell, essentially causing the birds to starve to death! And if that’s not bad enough, a mother hummingbird can pass the infection on to her babies who will also die of starvation.

If your feeders have BLACK MOLD and you just ignore it, this is one way they could come in contact with this infection.

And amazingly, there’s more.

You know that fermented sugar water that has become cloudy in your feeder? Fermented sugar water can cause liver damage and liver damage could cause death.

And sorry, but one more–YOU DO NOT need that red food coloring or store-bought nectar which also may be causing harm to the little birds you love so much.

So then, here’s 8 things you need to know about feeding hummingbirds:

1 Honestly, if you are not willing to clean and fill your feeders every two or three days, PLEASE don’t bother putting them out! Watching hummingbirds is wonderful but it requires a commitment on your part.

This feeder comes completely apart for easy cleaning.

This feeder comes completely apart for easy cleaning.

2.The best hummingbird feeders are the ones that are EASY to clean. I like the feeders that come completely apart for easy washing. There are many feeders on the market that don’t come apart at all! Making cleaning them IMPOSSIBLE! If you have these, throw them out and replace them with feeders you can clean. Some have a built-in ant moat–these are AWESOME! They cost more, but are totally worth it because the ants will not find their way to the nectar and eventually, will give up trying. (Here’s one I love) If you don’t have a built in ant moat, you can buy one and attach it to the top of the feeder. Another thing to look for in a hummingbird feeder is a resting spot for the birds, rather than feeders that require them to hover.

Here's what an ant moat looks like.

Here’s what an ant moat looks like.

3. Speaking of cleaning your feeders… it’s not hard if you stay on top of it. Just bring them in every 2 to 3 days and flush with hot tap water. Use a sponge/ bottle brush/Q-tip to scrub inside all of the parts. You do not need to use soap as it can leave a residue. If you see any sign of mold–soak the feeder in 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water for one hour  and then rinse well, OR soak in a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar to one gallon water for 15 minutes and rinse well.

4. Hang your feeder in the SHADE. The nectar will last longer this way and though we can’t ask them, the birds might appreciate the cooler spot too.

Notice this feeder is in the shade

Notice this feeder is in the shade

5. Make your own nectar solution, SANS RED FOOD COLORING. Just mix up 1 part regular sugar to 4 parts water. You can do this in hot tap water or you can boil it, but boiling is not necessary. Boiling it may slow fermentation but if you are replacing it regularly anyway, this won’t come up.

6. You should only put 2 or 3 days worth of nectar in the feeder. So if you have a giant feeder with a large holding area, don’t fill it up! It will just be a waste since it will have to be replaced before it empties. You can keep made-up solution in a pitcher in the fridge. (labeled of course so your guests don’t inadvertently become addicted to your sweet nectar)

I love this window feeder!

I love this window feeder!

7. Put your feeder either right at the window, or at least 5 feet away from a window to prevent collisions. There are window suction cup feeders that are great–especially if you have kids or are a kid yourself and love to see these amazing birds up close.

8. The sooner you get your feeders out, the better. If the birds come through and don’t find suitable food sources, they will keep traveling north. Having your feeders out when they pass through increases your chances of having them stay and call your yard “home.” I put out red blankets and towels to add more red to my yard and make the birds more likely to stop in to check it out–then discover one of 5 feeders around the house. This is not necessary! But it can’t hurt to make your yard more noticeable. feeder2-8170

One more thing! The birds can’t thank you, but I can!!

Thanks for caring about our hummingbirds!

And for taking the time to protect them and to spread the word to others. Together, we can make a difference.

Read more about the fungus infection at the Audubon Society

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Have you Noticed?

deer-2-2If you’ve been feeding the hummingbirds this summer and you still have nectar out, you might have noticed lately an absence of males. Male ruby-throated hummingbirds can easily be distinguished from females by their brilliant red gorget (neck), especially lovely when the sunlight hits it just right.

In the fall, the males leave before the females, heading to Mexico where they will spend the winter. Females along with immature hummers stay around later. Have you noticed the immature males? deer-2Sometimes they have a few red feathers in their gorget, sometimes what looks like a “five o’clock shadow.” Males won’t get their complete red gorgets until after their first migration. So when our birds return in the spring, the males who were born this summer will be sporting a new red gorget.

Where I live in western North Carolina, the males have been gone now for about a week. Depending on where you live, you might be still seeing them, or they might also be gone.

It’s good to keep your feeders out, even after you first notice they are gone because you can help the birds migrating. Birds heading south already will need to eat and may stop off at YOUR feeder on their long journey.

Want to know more about hummingbirds? Click HERE for ten things you may not know or HERE to learn about their migrations. They are such fascinating birds, I think it is always fun to see, and to help them.

Enjoy your day!

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Hummingbirds Get Crazy!

hbird-0948If you have hummingbird feeders you probably have noticed they have been getting a little crazy lately, zipping around wildly, chasing each other aggressively as try to gain control of the best nectar sources. Why on earth are they doing this! Can’t they just share?

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds migrate to Mexico in the fall, traveling more than 450 miles across the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. To prepare for such a long journey, fraught with all kinds of challenges, they must fatten up. At this time of year they are hyperphagia–eating almost constantly to put on weight, many nearly doubling their mass in preparation. A male weighing 3 grams during the summer may put on 2 -2.5 grams.

Imagine these tiny birds traveling over open water, sometimes with headwinds as hard as 20mph! It might take them 20 hours to make this journey. Certainly it is easy to understand, given this incredible migration, why so many do not make it.

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Recently I watched them outside of my office window, counting 6 around my suction-cup feeder at one time! I filmed for a minute, watching as they zipped by at impossible speeds. The photo above shows two drinking while a third one tries to figure out how to get nectar from the feeder! He seemed baffled, and kept tasting the water in the moat before he was run off by one of the other immature males.

Such fun they are to watch! Enjoy the video… at one point there will be two on the feeder and you can count at least 3 or possibly 4 in the background.

Are your hummingbirds this crazy yet??

If you want to read more about hummingbirds, here are 10 things you may not know,  a Weekly Puzzler about hummingbirds, and a post about their incredible migration. Also, if you are still filling your hummingbird feeders with RED NECTAR, click HERE to learn why this is a terrible idea! Oh, and here’s one more video–in case you’ve never seen a male with his iridescent red gorget. Happy reading!

If you want to buy this feeder, check it out here!

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3 MORE Things You Would Stop Doing if you Knew the Consequences

Several weeks ago I did a POST on things you would stop doing if you knew the consequences… Here are 3 more things to add to the list:

1. Using RED dye in your hummingbird nectar.

2. Letting your cats roam free outside.

3. Making wild animals into pets.

Here’s why:

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1. Using RED DYE in your Hummingbird Feeders

This is probably the most common one and the most innocent–It’s also the easiest thing to change! Sadly, we may not know the effects of our actions for years to come, if ever.

We are essentially turning our hummingbirds into guinea pigs–for no reason other than MONEY and convenience. 

I bet you’ve seen the Red Nectar on your grocery store shelves and maybe you even buy it. Well let me be the first to tell you, this is completely unnecessary, and is harming the birds.

Other countries, including Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway, have banned Red Dye #40 (as it is called) because of research that has proven it causes hyperactivity in children including ADD and ADHD, as well as depression, migraines and even some cancers. (ABC news 2013 and HERE)

And yet, here in the US, it is still available!

Sure, Perky Pet, the company who makes and PROFITS from this product will claim it has never been proven to have any ill effects on hummingbirds. But there have been no scientific studies on the long term effects of this dye to the tiny birds who ingest pounds of it every summer. How many scientists are out spending time researching this? It has not been proven to be bad, but neither has it been proven to NOT BE BAD. And you know what? It is completely unnecessary. I could say that 100 times and still people will buy it. Why take the risk? Here are 5 reasons why you SHOULD NOT use this product:

  •  It serves no purpose. The birds will come to a feeder with red parts, regardless of the color of the nectar.
  • Nectar from flowers is CLEAR, not red.
  • The dye is not metabolized by the birds but passes through their systems, (a day later their excrement is STILL red!) including their kidneys where it might be causing damage. Why take the chance?
  • The red dye is petroleum based… and shown to cause DNA damage at high concentrations in mice…In children these dyes cause hyperactivity and depression. Would you want your children drinking this? And how much smaller is a hummingbird’s system than a child’s? Why would we add something that is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY?
  • You can save money and time by making it yourself. Just use a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. You do not need to make it red!

If you’d like to read more about this, check out this awesome blog post by Julie Zickefoose.

If you are still skeptical, please read this.

Also, as a side note, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it is not necessary to boil your hummingbird nectar unless you are making up large quantities that you are storing in the fridge for longer periods. The boiling slows fermentation–it is not essential and does not get rid of the chemicals in the water–it just makes them more concentrated!

 2. Letting your CATS and dogs roam free outside

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Records show that about 84 million people own cats and 40-80% of them allow their cats to roam free outside. Know how many animals they kill while they are out there?

It is estimated that cats kill 1.4 -3.7 BILLION BIRDS EACH YEAR and another 6.9-20 BILLION small animals like chipmunks, voles and mice.

Check out this article published about cats by the NY Times  that says “More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.” Or this one by the USA Today  or the Washington Post or by the National Wildlife Federation.

If you attract birds to your yard with nesting boxes or feeders, you are doing no one a favor, least of all the birds you say you love to watch. You are essentially feeding the CATS! Birds nesting in yards where cats freely roam are doomed. When they fledge (leave the nest), they are not yet ready to be on their own and live on the ground, under their parent’s care for a period of time. How well do you think those baby birds will fare if cats are around?

And dogs roaming free are no better as they are predators by nature. If they encounter a fawn or young turkey or other animal, you can bet they are going to go after that animal. That’s just what they do.

So what you can do as a pet owner is to keep your dog on a leash and keep your cat inside. Or create a fenced-in area, or if you have the time and patience, teach your cat to walk on a leash. It is possible!  I know because I am doing it! I have begun this process with my two cats and am having success. Click HERE to read more!

road--23. Making Wild Animals into Pets

So one day you’re driving along and you see a box turtle crossing the road. You stop and get out, intending to move it across the road but then your 5-year old daughter begs you to let her keep it. You give in, thinking what could be the harm in this? You had a pet when you were a kid, she should have one too, right?

Wrong! If only you knew! Many turtles have delayed sexual maturity and a low reproductive output. While they may produce 200 eggs in their lifetimes, only 2-3 are likely to survive into adulthood. According to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission “While seemingly innocuous, the casual taking of box turtles for pets or short-term amusement can also be damaging, especially for populations already on the decline. The removal of even a handful of adult box turtles from an area has the potential to reduce population size over the long-term. Box turtles have very strong homing instincts. Box turtles released outside of their home range, even less than a mile, rarely adapt to their new location. Rather, a displaced box turtle will wander in search of its old home. This wandering puts the displaced box turtle at increased risk of being struck by a car, encountering a predator, being unable to find food, or unable to find a place to overwinter.”

Turtles face an ever-steeper slope of challenges, from habitat loss and fragmentation to road morality, and now, people wanting them as pets. In just ten years, from 1980-1990, the United States exported 100,000 box turtles to Europe and Asia. Imagine what those numbers might be today? And if you think you are just one person, taking one animal, be it a turtle, a salamander, a frog, consider how many animals that might amount to if EVERYONE thought the same way!

Please don’t say yes when your child begs you to let them have a wild animal as a pet. Wild animals deserve to stay wild! They do not deserve to spend the rest of their lives in solitary confinement just because your child demands a pet.

 What have I missed? Please use the comment box to let me know or share your thoughts! 

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #31

amoth-8714Many people see this at their flowers and think it’s a hummingbird. With their “furry” green bodies and burgundy wings, they do look like a hummingbird so this confusion is easy to understand. But this creature is actually a type of insect, a kind of moth called a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. Having a wingspan just over 2 inches, this moth frequents flowers to drink the sweet nectar with its long proboscis (pronounced pro-ba-sis) in the same way butterflies do. The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth can be found throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada. Like a handful of other moths, it is active during the day, rather than at night as is the habit of most moths.

The latin word for butterflies and moths is Lepidoptera. This translates to “scale wing”  and is an excellent name since butterflies and moths have wings that are covered with thousands of microscopic scales. Have you ever touched a butterfly or moth wing and had some fine “powder” on your fingers afterward? These are some of the scales that have rubbed off, one reason why it is best not to handle the wings of a butterfly or moth.

A lovely luna moth

A lovely luna moth

More than 90% of Lepidoptera are moths! This is amazing given that most people only recognize butterflies, mostly because butterflies are out flying during the day when people are more likely to see them. Worldwide there are more than 300,000 species of Lepidoptera. In North America there are 11,000 species, with just 679 of them butterflies.

Most moths are nocturnal (active at night) but some, like the Hummingbird Clearwing, are not. Another myth about moths is that they are all white. Some of the most beautiful species of Lepidoptera are moths, including some larger ones, with a five inch wingspan, that live in our area, including luna, polyphemus, cercropia and tulip tree moths.  Have you ever been fortunate enough to see one of these? They are really beautiful!

A Tulip tree moth

A Tulip tree moth

If you want to read about how you can attract moths to your yard, Click HERE. Or if you want to read about a lovely moth, called a Tulip Tree moth, click HERE. 

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