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Around the Countryside – Attracting Hummingbirds

March 15, 2021

Around the Countryside

Attracting Hummingbirds

Marion Barnes – Senior County Extension Agent

Clemson University

 

As spring approaches, it’s time to get out those hummingbird feeders and get ready for the arrival of those tiny visitors who bring so much color to our yards. The spring migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird is a much-anticipated event for many homeowners in South Carolina. Hummingbirds, which get their name from the sound made by their wings in flight, usually arrive in our area around mid-March.

 

More than three hundred species of hummingbirds live in North and South America. Sixteen hummingbird species are found in the United States, but the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species found east of the Mississippi River. It can be found in the spring, summer, and fall throughout areas of our state.

 

The ruby-throated hummingbird is only about 3 to 4 inched in length and weighs less than 0.2 ounces. After spending the spring and summer in the eastern United States, they begin their fall migration and fly six hundred miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico to Central America and Mexico. During the migration, their heartbeat exceeds 1200 beats per minute, and their wings may flap 15 to 80 times per second.

 

It’s been estimated that hummingbirds need nectar from between 1000 to 2000 flowers each day. Unfortunately, many native plants hummingbirds depend on for nectar have disappeared due to development and urban sprawl. Each spring, many homeowners and backyard gardeners put out hummingbird feeders to attract hummingbirds.

 

The following are a few guidelines from the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center for setting up your hummingbird feeders.

 

  • You can make your own nectar by mixing 1-part sugar with 4-parts water.

(for example, 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water) until the sugar is completely dissolved.  It’s unnecessary to boil the water, but you want to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not

Hummingbird photo B. Smith Clemson HGIC

add red dye or food coloring to the nectar solution. It is not necessary and may harm the hummingbirds.

  • Fill the feeders with the sugar water mixture and place them outside. Since hummingbirds are territorial and like to guard the feeders, place them near a shrub or tree for the hummers to perch and watch for intruders.
  • Keep the nectar fresh. Change the sugar solution every 2 or 3 days and thoroughly clean feeders each time to prevent harmful mold growth when the weather warms up and reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s essential to change the nectar each day.
  • Do not use soapy water to clean feeders as a soap film tastes terrible to the hummers and could be harmful. Use a vinegar solution (1-part vinegar and 2-parts water) instead and a bottle brush to clean the feeder. Then rinse them thoroughly. Don’t forget to clean the guards on the nectar ports. Do not allow the sugar solution to become cloudy or moldy since it could cause a fungal infection on their tongues if hummingbirds feed on it.

 

In addition to feeders, consider planting flowers in your yard to provide other nectar sources. Bee balm, petunia, trumpet creeper, woodbine honeysuckle, and zinnia are a few excellent choices to add to your landscape. For more information on backyard wildlife, contact your local Clemson Extension office.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer

 

 



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