Birds of a Feather

Published on Thu, Apr 25, 2002 by Michelle Ensinger

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Birds of a Feather

By Michelle Ensinger

Did you know a hummingbird’s heart beats 1,260 times per minute? And that if the average man had a metabolism comparable to that of a hummer, he would have to eat 285 pounds of hamburger every day to maintain his weight?

Amazing how these little creatures can light up our faces. This is the time of year to place our feeders if we wish to have hummers hang around. They are looking for food sources in order to locate nesting areas- usually on tips of conifers where heavier birds would have trouble landing.

I usually start placing feeders in mid-February when I’ve sighted the rufous hummingbird looking for food before nature’s natural food source is available.

The sugar/water mix can go rancid in 2-3 days. It’s deadly to the hummers. Unless you have a cool area to hang your feeders, it is best to fill your feeders 1/2 full and refill them every three days to avoid the mixture going rancid.

If you have more than one feeder, try to have them out of sight of each other, as the male rufous can ‘hog’ the feeders and keep away other hummers.

A good basic mix, as close to mother nature according to ornithologists: heat four cups water to a rolling boil. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I use two cups if still 40 degrees or colder at night. If the sugar ratio is too strong, the hummers have trouble digesting. Continue to boil for 15 minutes, cool. Never, never, use honey in the food mix as it creates fungus that can be fatal.

Some people add strained “beet juice” to initially bring hummers into feeders. However, until I’ve seen otherwise, the prepared mix is “unsafe” as it contains red dye, a carcinogen banned from human consumption. So why feed it to hummers? To clean feeders, I use diluted vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to bubble out any mold. It is important to rinse well.

In our area, the hummers who usually visit are the Rufous, Anna’s, Black-Chinned and Calliope. With proper conditions, the Anna’s can reside year round.
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