The chirping and buzzing of hummingbirds have been in the air lately, signaling the start of summer. They migrate north from Mexico and usually spend mid-May to early September here in Grand County – the males arriving first to scout out a place with abundant food sources. With blooming flowers in short supply this time of year, hummingbird feeders will attract these hungry birds and convince them to stick around the backyard for the summer.
According to birdwatchers.com, the best homemade nectar to feed hummingbirds is made from one part white sugar and four parts water boiled for a couple of minutes and refrigerated between use. Don’t use honey, artificial sweeteners, brown sugar or red dyes (the red accents on the feeder are enough to attract them). Change the food every other day especially if the weather is warm, and thoroughly clean each feeder because bacteria and mold can grow in the sugar water and cause it to ferment.
Although hummers will feed on any flower, they prefer those with long, red tubular blossoms such as firecracker pestemon, petunia and Indian paintbrush. In return for their nectar, the birds pollinate the flowers. The most commonly seen species in the mountains of Colorado is the broadtail hummingbird, but nine other species of hummers compete with them for food.
Hummers are able to perch or hover over flowers while eating, beating their wings in a figure-eight pattern up to 70 beats per second. That amount of energy burned requires them to eat more than one half of their weight each day. Their fuzzy tongues are even longer than their beaks, with a forked end that absorbs the nectar rather than sucking it up like a straw.