They’re back – hummingbirds, that is

Published 2:15 pm Thursday, April 21, 2022

By Randi Clifford

South Central Master Gardener

You may already know a lot about these beautiful creatures but it seems like every time I pick up a garden magazine, I find something new to learn about them. Early April is definitely the time to increase your knowledge base so that when they do show up, you are ready for them.

For several years, I’ve been following the Hummingbirdcentral.com website which records sightings across the United States. What fun it would be to actually participate in the survey; definitely on my “to do” list. At the time of this article, their migration in the southern part of the U.S. has been in progress and there have been sightings across Virginia and also into the northern U.S. Hummingbirds migrate from Central America and Mexico where they spend their winters. They can fly over 20 miles in distance a day. The eastern part of the U.S. generally has the Ruby-throated hummingbird. Occasionally, there are sighting of other species. However, for the most part, we are limited to the one species.

It’s really easy to feed them and you don’t need a fancy feeder. You can also make your own food too. Skip the red dies and use one part sugar to four parts water. Boil the water, add the sugar, stir to dissolve and then let it cool. You should refrigerate the liquid and then try to use it up within a week or so. Don’t forget to space your feeders apart and try not to place them in direct sight of each other. These birds are very territorial and will fight to keep other hummingbirds off the feeder. In between feedings, you should clean the feeder with warm water. If you start to see mold, you can clean it with one part bleach to 10 parts water.

The best way to keep the hummingbirds interested in your property is to supplement the feeders with other flowering plants. Native plants are ideal, but other annuals and perennials will work. My garden consists of Phlox, Verbena, Liatris, Cardinal Flower, Bee Balm, Coneflower, Columbine, Hyssop and Milkweed. To learn more about hummingbirds, Virginia Tech has published several articles on its website. I enjoyed For the Birds, Butterflies and Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats, by Mary Free, 2013.

Last year we spent hours and hours entertained by over 30 hummingbirds in my garden. There are also many YouTube videos showing how territorial these birds can be. It’s really fun to watch them in action. Grab a drink, sit back and enjoy the entertainment.