Monday, May 4, 2009

Time to feed the hummingbirds

Strands of spider’s web are employed to attach the [ruby-throated hummingbird’s] nest to the upper side of a horizontal limb, generally in hickory, oak, pine, or tulip-poplar trees.

--Marcus Schneck, Creating a Hummingbird Garden

First of all, this column is late--about two weeks late. The note I had stuffed away with my hummingbird feeder in a box in the basement tells me that I was supposed to put elixir out for these thirsty migrant birds back in mid-April. But, since these tiny travelers will be flying north until early June, you still have a good month of feeding available.

I use a simple glass feeder with four red, blossom-like openings that does a good job of attracting the little fellows. I boil one cup of water and add 1/4 cup of regular, granulated sugar, then stir it well until all the sugar is dissolved. Once it's cool I pour it into the feeder and hang it up on a shepherd's hook in the garden. Keep in mind that where there is sugar water, there shall the ants be. So I don't hang the feeder from the house because our kitchen attracts enough ants already. Change the solution a couple of times a week.

By mid-June the hummers disappear from our area (the Midwest), and I take the feeder down. But they'll be back in mid- to late July, flying south this time, and will visit the feeder until September.

Of course, you can also plant flowers that attract these intriguing birds. The lists of these are very long and include some for each season. Common ones are petunias, begonias, lantana, Japanese honeysuckle, fuschia, and trumpet vine. However you lure hummers, children and adults love to watch the hovering birds feed, and this provides a good way to teach about bird migration and the never-ending wonders of creation.

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