By Pat Pepper
There are few birds that elicit such delight when seen as Hummingbirds do. The fact that they can hover, turn on a dime, and feed where we can easily see them may have something to do with their popularity. When the sun shines on the male’s red throat, known as a gorget, we are in awe of such natural brilliance.
Many birders have been commenting on the paucity of Hummingbirds at their feeders right now. One explanation might be that the hummingbirds have been busy nesting and are finding natural food sources such as flowers and insects. The activity at feeders should start picking up very soon, however.
About two weeks ago, I did find one Ruby-throat sitting atop one of the feeder posts in the SGG perennial garden and another feeding from some flowers in front of the tea house. For you avid gardeners, I apologize for saying “some” flowers, but I could not identify them. They were tubular and red-orange in color—a favorite combination of hummingbirds.
For those of you who would like to attract hummingbirds naturally, here is a list of some common southeastern plants that hummingbirds like: Coleus, Sweet William, Foxglove, Trumpet vine, Red morning glory, Milkweeds, Cannas, Shrimp plant, Lantanas, Salvias, Bee balm, and Turk’s cap. If you like the ease of a feeder, you can make your own nectar by mixing four parts water to one part sugar.
While there are many species of Hummingbirds, only the Ruby-throated breeds here. It is a migratory bird that summers here and returns to Central America in the fall. It is amazing that such a tiny bird can fly over the Gulf of Mexico without stopping. It is possible, however, to spot a Rufous Hummingbird in the fall or winter here in Georgia. This bird is a rare visitor from western North America. Last December, I visited the home of a birding friend in Acworth who had attracted a Rufous by keeping her feeder out using floodlights to keep the nectar from freezing. Seeing the Rufous was very exciting for me because it was a life bird (a bird I had never seen before).
I love sharing my space with my feathered friends, but sometimes they have trouble navigating our man-made world. Two weeks ago, as I was preparing to pick up my mother at the airport, I heard the distinctive buzzing of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in my garage. I knew immediately what this meant. This female Hummingbird found its way into my garage and couldn’t find its way out, despite both garage doors being open. It is a bird’s natural instinct when frightened or confused to fly up, not down. I knew that if I didn’t act fast, this bird would soon die from exhaustion or starvation. I went into my backyard to get my Hummingbird feeder and hung it from the garage door handle in the hope that she would be attracted to the red color, feed, and then fly out.
I watched from behind the house door to the garage, but she kept flying in circles. I knew I had to get ready to leave, but hated the thought of leaving her trapped in my garage. I decided to finish getting ready, hoping she would figure out her path to freedom. I don’t know exactly how she figured it out, but when I returned to the garage, she was gone. I was so relieved. I did a little internet research to find out why she had flown into the garage. One article said that the red cords with red handles on electric garage door openers fool hummingbirds into thinking they are flowers. The Hummingbird flies in and can’t get out. While I hope you never have this experience, I do hope that if it does happen to you, you will now know what to do.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds make Georgia summers a little more bearable.
Here is a link to that wonderful Cornell website in which you can hear a Ruby-throated Hummingbird: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/id
Editor’s Note: If you love hummers, make plans now to attend our Hummingbird Banding on Saturday, August 25th, from 8-10am. Birdwatcher’s Supply employee Julia Elliott will trap and band hummingbirds. Regular Garden Admission Fees apply, but registration is necessary! Click here to register.