They’re Making Their Appearance Now That Spring Is Here
It has been what seems a long winter for most of us living in North America, and especially here in southern California. As a matter of fact, we’re in the midst of our 9th large atmospheric cyclone, better known as lots of rain.
We haven’t used our sprinkler systems in over a month and just the other day I had to relearn how to drive on dry pavement. Ha.
Nonetheless, being the eternal optimists that we are, while visiting the desert a couple of days ago we stopped into our favorite nursery and garden center to relish in the spring flowers, succulents and cactus blossoms. A true bounty of every color imaginable.
I ran into a group of women who were looking at hummingbird feeders. It was really quite funny because they all wanted to purchase one, but they didn’t know exactly how they worked. One lady bought one a month ago and admitted she didn’t know what she was doing and it’s still empty. Another wanted to put bird seed in the feeder, “Oh No!!!” I said.
Since I have been working with hummingbirds and a myriad of sparrows, finches and other songbirds for over five years, I consider myself somewhat of a self-professed expert, at least when it comes to their feeding habits. We have an incredible following of our fine feathered friends so I can speak from experience. It gave me such pleasure as I helped guide the ladies with a few tips on both hummingbird and regular bird seed feeders.
So, here are the tips I passed along to this wonderful group of women wanting to share in the magic of watching our local birds.
COMMITMENT. If you are going to indulge, get the right mind-set because it does require some work and effort to ensure their safety and upkeep. In other words, don’t just feed them and then not look after and care for them. YOU CAN’T JUST LOVE ‘EM THEN LEAVE ‘EM. While several species migrate during the cold winter months, here in southern California they tend to hang all year round creating new and budding little families.
Our cousin and 95-year-old aunt set up their feeders in the spring and keep them in place through the fall. The cold winter months where they live in the Midwest are just not conducive to hummingbirds. But the little fellows do enjoy the sensational sunshine and warmth of these next three seasons and return each year to thrive.
FEEDER. Getting the right feeder is a top priority. It obviously depends on how much you want so spend but I have found blown glass with red and orange coloring work the best. Here in SoCal we can reach over 100 degrees in the summer and sometimes as low as 30 during the winter. With those temperature extremes glass seems to hold up much better than ones made from plastic. In addition, they are much easier to clean in between feedings (yes, you must clean your feeder before your next refill), and they hold their color brilliance much better. Another point, all three of my feeders have little perches so the birds can rest while eating.
FEED. The experts will tell you NOT to buy the premade red colored feed. The chemicals in the red dye are harmful to the little birds, so the best approach is to make your own. It is basically sugar-water in the proportions of 1 part white pure cane sugar to 4 parts water, in other words, 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water. I boil my water to remove impurities then add the sugar and mix thoroughly and let it cool to room temperature. If I don’t use it all, I store the remainder in the refrigerator. I also plant nectar rich, brightly colored orange, purple and red tubular flowers that are particularly attractive to hummingbirds, should they want food that’s a bit more natural.
FREQUENCY. During the cold and cool months, it’s possible to allow your food to remain in the feeder for a week, but no more. In the summer months, you will need to exchange old food with fresh every 3 days. Even at that, you might find some mold build-up inside the feeder, so be sure to clean it thoroughly, but never with soap, just plain hot water and a good brush.
LOCATION. If at all possible, place your hummingbird feeder(s) under an overhang. They love the solitude and safety the cover provides, in addition the outside of your feeder will stay cleaner when it’s out of the elements. Also, they like having some plants located under the feeder giving the feel of a more natural environment.
ENJOYMENT. This is the best part. Your hummingbirds will get to know you and once they do, you can count on them visiting you with fly-by’s when you’re outside. My BoomerGuy and I often sit and marvel at their acrobatics—we think they love showing off for us because they’re so happy and well-fed. They are exceptionally intelligent and definitely know who feeds them. Pay special attention to their coloring when the sun shines on them—they are magnificent creatures and their iridescent hues are just stunning—makes for great photo material if you’re quick enough.
For lack of a better classification, I lump all our other birds under this category. There are roughly 4000 different species of song-birds and you should check with google which are indigenous to your locale. These birds generally enjoy feeding on seed, so be ready to stock up with large bags of their favorite food, because they can be voracious eaters. And they have a beauty all to their own, so please enjoy.
COMMITMENT. Once you embark on this journey, it is essential you keep up with your food regimen and supply. The little birds will become highly reliant on you so do not disappoint them.
FEEDER. As many species as there are, you will find an equal number of bird feeders of differing sizes and configurations. We chose a metal one that conveniently hangs from a shepherd’s hook with a little canopy that protects the seeds from the elements such as snow and rain. It has a “pop-top” that opens for easy filling. Since these birds are not drawn to bold colors, we found one that is a muted brown and weathers well.
FEED. You can order online or you can find the seeds of choice at your local Walmart and/or gardening center. I tend to mix regular seed with black sesame seeds which appears to be their favorite.
LOCATION. These guys can be picky little eaters. If they don’t particularly like one kind of seed, they will drop it on the ground causing quite a mess. With that, I hang my feeder over some evergreen bushes so the seeds they don’t care for disappear amongst the foliage. One other important factor, try to locate your hummingbird feeders around the side of the house from where you keep your song-bird feeders—their families don’t mix well.
ENJOYMENT. They are not quite as friendly as hummingbirds, but they do provide an enjoyable experience when observed at a distance. They are very cautious and are constantly scanning their surrounds but are so fun to watch when they settle in for their feeding. They are little fluff balls to be sure. Each one has its own style and personality. A multitude of sizes, shapes and colors so be sure to keep your camera handy.
As with anything these days, you can go online and discover a treasure trove of information on these wonderful birds. My tips and hints are from my experience that I know work here in this part of the country. Yours will most likely be slightly different.
Nonetheless enjoy the little habitats that you create and be sure to drop me a note and share your stories. My three-new friends from the nursery have agreed to do just that here at www.boomergal.com.
Your Number One BoomerGal, Connie.