The website Journey North noted in a post on March 15, that hummingbird migration along the Pacific Coast has been impacted by the crazy weather that California has experienced in recent weeks.
In the eastern United States, however, the annual migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds is proceeding pretty much on schedule.
According to Journey North, volunteers along the Gulf Coast and in the Southeast have been reporting arriving ruby-throated hummingbirds since early March.
I fully expect that ruby-throated hummingbird migration will bring the first individuals to Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina in early April.
According to the website, most first spring observations of hummingbirds are males, although a few females are being spotted. Male hummingbirds, the posting noted, arrive first so they can find and defend a territory.
As always, spring migration can be a challenging time for hummingbirds. Temperature, wind patterns and storms can influence the pace of migration.
Even once these tiny birds make their epic spring crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, they will need time to rest and refuel before moving northward. By mid-March, the advance of ruby-throated hummingbirds has usually reached states as Georgia and South Carolina. By the end of March, these tiny flying gems have reached states such as Tennessee and North Carolina.
It’s time to get those sugar water feeders outside and waiting for the early arrivals. Once the chance of late-season freezes has passed, consider planting some colorful native flowers to provide nectar sources for hummingbirds.
Northeast Tennessee usually gets its first spring hummingbirds the first week of April. If you’re seeing hummingbirds, I’d love to know. I have tracked arrivals for several years now. To share your first spring sighting of a ruby-throated hummingbird, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler. Please include the date and time of your sighting. I also welcome the sharing of other details about your sightings.
In the meantime, take steps now to welcome hummingbirds back and keep them safe during their stay.
Some ways of ensuring that our hummingbird guests are kept healthy and secure are simply common sense. For instance, don’t use pesticides, herbicides or any other sort of toxin anywhere close to the vicinity of a sugar water feeder or a flower garden. Hummingbirds are such tiny creatures with such intense metabolisms that it only takes a small amount of any harmful substance to sicken or kill one of these little flying gems.
Feeding hummingbirds is easy, but many people try to complicate the process. Only common, pure cane sugar, mixed to a ratio of four parts water to one part sugar, is a safe choice for these birds.
For emphasis, I’ll repeat again that only common, pure cane sugar is safe for hummingbirds. There are no safe substitutes. Do not use organic, raw or brown sugar. Confectioner’s sugar, which contains an anti-caking substance (often corn starch, silicates or stearate salts), is also hazardous to hummingbirds.
The ratio of four parts water to one part sugar utilizing pure cane sugar most closely duplicates the nectar that hummingbirds obtain from some of their favorite flowers. Why try to mess with nature’s perfection?
I cannot imagine why anyone would supplement sugar water for hummingbirds with such human beverages as a sports drink or Kool-aid, but there have been reports of people doing so. Be aware that such additives will only risk the health of these tiny birds.
Most experts also suggest avoiding red dyes or food colorings, which are often found in commercially marketed hummingbird sugar water. Don’t risk the health of hummingbirds for a little convenience.
It’s easy to make your own sugar water mix, which can be stored in the refrigerator in an empty plastic juice jug. Boil some water and then add one cup of sugar for every four cups of water in your pot. Stir thoroughly. Bottle the mixture until it cools. Fill your feeders and store any remaining sugar water in the fridge in the aforementioned jug. Refrigerated, the mix should stay good to use for at least a week.
In our milder spring weather, changing the sugar water in feeders can probably be done on a weekly basis. When hotter summer temperatures prevail, it’s usually necessary to change the sugar water every two or three days.
Remember to send me those first sightings of returning spring hummingbirds. I’ll be doing my usual roundup to share who gets graced with a visit from one of these tiny beauties.