Maureen Kennedy spoke to our garden club this week. She said the easiest way to remember is tax day. Put out your hummingbird feeders on April 15. Any earlier in the Mid-Atlantic and you are wasting your sugar water.
Kennedy is the owner of My Backyard, a shop in Ocean Pines, Maryland dedicated to her love of hummingbirds. She sells all sorts of feeders, bird houses, bird baths, flags and even gift items such as local honey and handmade soap. She shared her vast knowledge of these littlest of birds. They are so tiny; they weigh about as much as a penny. They fly through the air at a top speed of 60 mph, beating their wings about 80 times a second. They need a lot of food for all that exercise and for their long migration down to South America each winter. You will not see flocks of hummingbirds on the migration trail. These beautiful feathered creatures may look romantic, but they don’t mate for life. They’re loners, making that extensive trip solo. They have feet but can’t walk. These are meant only to get a grip on their perch. It’s good to get a feeder with a landing spot, as it gives them a rest.
Hummers have excellent vision and are attracted to flowers by sight. They are partial to bright reds and yellows. Scents won’t attract them because they have no sense of smell. Think salvia, butterfly weed, cardinal flower, scarlet bee balm, trumpet vine, honeysuckle, columbines, daylilies, and lupines; biennials such as foxgloves and hollyhocks; and many annuals, including cleomes, impatiens, fuschias and petunias. Their long beaks are capable of getting way into tubular flowers for extra large doses of pollen.
Their tongues can thrust three inches out to lap up your sugar water. No sucking, just lapping with tongues made especially for that purpose. They definitely have a sweet tooth, but need protein for energy. You can help by putting an apple in a separate feeder. They won’t go for the apple, but will choose the fruit flies that the apple attracts. That’s their protein. When they fly they keep their beaks open. It’s like a non-stop net that scoops up tiny insects all day long.
If they like your feeder, they will remember your location and return and teach their young to find you too. They lay one to three eggs twice a season. The chicks break out of the shells in thirteen to twenty-two days and are gone from the nest by thirty days or sooner. They will never return to that tiny nest their mother so carefully made of plant fiber and spider silk.
Remember the new reason to look forward to tax day.
My Backyard is at the Southgate, Ocean Pines and on the web at http://www.gotomybackyard.com.
You can find out everything about hummingbirds at Hummingbird.net.