For Release August 21, 2005

Time to Put Up Hummingbird Feeders

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

If you are one of the growing throng who are fascinated by hummingbirds, you need to be putting up your hummingbird feeder now, if you haven't already. Hummingbirds migrate through Kansas in late April and May on their way to points north. A few do stick around and nest here, but most are in a hurry to get to their nesting grounds.

But starting in late July and August, they have now finished nesting and have begun the leisurely trip south for the winter. Hummingbird numbers in Kansas are increasing every day and will peak around the first week of September before tapering off through early October. So right now is a great time to put out a hummingbird feeder and spend some time watching these amazing birds.

Hummingbird feeders are relatively inexpensive. Many of them will be plastic and may have little adornments that look like flowers. Make sure you purchase one that doesn't have any yellow on it. Yellow attracts wasps and bees so make sure it is devoid of the color yellow. If you have an older feeder that does have yellow on it, this might be a good year to replace it with a newer model.

Pick a spot where you can watch your hummingbird feeder. Your feeder can be placed quite close to your house. In fact I've seen many that are placed right outside of a window that are used regularly. I like to pick a spot that is close to a tree so that the hummingbirds can fly to the tree and rest in between feeding rounds. Try not to place it too close to the ground where the birds might be at risk from a ground based predator. If you have a lot of flowers, these may be an additional draw. Placing your feeder close to a flower bed makes it easy for the hummingbirds to visit your feeder and your flowers.

While everyone knows that hummingbirds feed on nectar, or sugar water, many don't realize that they also eat small insects. Hummingbirds will frequent trees and plants that have small insects feeding on them, especially small flying insects. Sycamores and oaks certainly are going to fall into that category this year. So if you see a hummingbird spending a lot of time in a tree, flying up to the undersides of leaves, it is simply gleaning a high protein insect meal.

The sugar water solution that goes into your hummingbird feeder is no mystery. You can use the prepackaged mixes that usually contain a red dye. Make sure you mix at the proper rate. You can also use plain granulated sugar and mix it with water in the proportion of four parts water to one part sugar. It isn't necessary to add red dye. When I mix up fresh solution I use one fourth cup of sugar and one cup of water. I like to then placed this on the stove and almost bring it to a boil, then allow it to cool before placing in the feeder. This helps all the sugar go into solution and may help keep it from spoiling as fast. Regardless, the sugar water solution should be changed every few days. Don't fill the feeder clear full unless the birds are drinking a lot. It'll work just fine being half full as it will in being completely full. Do NOT use honey or artificial sweeteners in making the sugar solution. Neither is healthy for the hummingbirds.

Finally, don't be in a hurry to take down the feeder in the fall. The continuation of their migration has little to do with the presence or absence of your hummingbird feeder. And we can occasionally see uncommon hummingbird species in October and November. Say take a few minutes to mix up some sugar water, put up your feeder and enjoy these little winged jewels.


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