Welcoming Our Summer Visitors

David Barnes

It’s time to welcome back a swarm of North Carolina summer visitors. They won’t crowd the beaches, the roads or the mountains. They can provide hours of cheap entertainment. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird arrives back in NC at the end of first or second week in April.

The Hummingbird is a common summer/ nesting resident in all sections of the state and is found in both urban and rural areas. It is usually the dark throated males that arrive first, followed by the white throated females.

While your home or workplace environment may provide natural attractors in the form of flowers, the best way to enjoy these visitors is by providing supplementary feeders.

Hummingbird feeders can be commonly found in hardware, home supply and bird supply stores or online. Prices are usually fairly modest. Here are some tips that may be helpful. The larger models with a larger food capacity and multiple feeding stations or ports are worth the price. I have had a feeder emptied in a day and having multiple ports decreases the inevitable “hummingbird wars” at the feeders.

I also recommend if possible that two or more feeders be placed 20 yards apart to spread out the usage. Depending on where they are set up an ant guard is sometimes a useful ac­cessory.

As for the setup, put them where you can see them. They can be as high as an apartment or upstairs deck, and as close as a back porch. While there are many pre-packaged hummingbird foods available, usually at the same cource as your feed, you can cheaply make your own.

I mix approximately ½ cup of sugar to 1 quart of hot water. There is some question about the addition of food coloring, but there is no doubt the birds are attracted to the color red. I add a couple of drops of red food coloring. Many of the hummingbird “hot spots” in the US Southwest use no coloring. With their many feeders, their birds have become accustomed to them.

Our hummingbird visitors will remain until mid-October so keep the feeder up until then.  My rule of thumb, leave it up until you haven’t seen a bird in ten days. Some of the last birds you see will be birds from New England that will appreciate the help on their migration south.

On taking your feed down, one important thing to do is cleaning it. I recommend soaking in a bleach solution. Using a bottle brush is also helpful. So now is the time to hang a hummingbird feeder and to enjoy the company of our small visitors.