The Annual Hummer Invasion
Off the Porch with Judy and Don Self
No, not the 4-wheeled kind, the winged, 1/10th ounce, southbound kind.
Fall migration of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds is in full swing. It began back in late July, but peaks here at Almosta Farm in mid-September. But those of you who enjoy feeding them are already well aware of this. Just check how many pounds of sugar you’ve purchased this month! Remember, one part sugar to four parts water and avoid the expensive “nectar” mixes and food coloring.
Although hummers don’t migrate in flocks, there is a well defined, southward movement and, at this time of year, there is a constant turnover of hummers in our yard. We enjoy watching each wave of migrants arrive, so sleek and slim. Then in short order they become so plump that they can hardly fly. In fact last year, one male overdid and, when he tried to takeoff from a low-hanging feeder, crashed on the ground and could not get airborne from that low spot in the grass. Concerned about fire ants, we gave him a lift up to a nearby limb and with the increased height; this winged butterball was able to resume flight operations.
Retrieving an empty feeder is always a bit of an adventure and can be a little scary, especially late in the day when close encounters of the hummer kind are the rule, not the exception. You find yourself ducking those chattering, squeaky little dive bombers as they pass mere inches from your face! Then you hear one hovering . . . right beside your ear, peeking over your shoulder to see what you’re doing with their feeder. For the short period of time that the full rack of feeders isn’t hanging out, the hummers swarm around the remaining few like bees. That’s when we often see two hummers feeding from each feeder flower!
Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to take a chair and a cup of coffee and have a seat among the feeders. Hummers are such trusting souls. We’ve often been used as a perch. And when that happens, you learn the real meaning of light as a feather.
In addition to the hummers, this year Judy has made friends with a cute little bumblebee who is always on the feeders and is very reluctant to get off for feeder refilling. He’s even followed her half way to the house trying to get back on the feeder.
Soon the number of birds will begin to decline and by the end of October, our last hummer will depart for Mexico. He’ll return in mid-March.
But wait! An increasing number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are overwintering in the southeast! And researchers from the Hummer/Bird Study Group reported banding small numbers of seven species of western hummingbird here in the southeast last winter! So, keep at least one full, clean feeder in your yard all winter. And if you receive a visit from one of these wanderers, contact the Hummer/Bird Study Group to arrange for one of their researchers to come and you’re your bird.