The return of spring also means the return of the ruby-throated hummingbird to West Virginia and time to put up your hummingbird feeders, according to Rob Tallman of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Section.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird to breed east of the Mississippi River, although rarely, other species are seen in the Mountain State. This bird occurs throughout the state in mixed woodlands, orchards and backyard habitats with much open land and blooming flowers nearby.
“Hummingbirds feed on nectar with a long, brush-like tongue. They also consume tiny insects and spiders. Because of the hummingbirds’ fondness for nectar, they can easily be attracted to your backyard by feeders or plantings of flowers,” Tallman says.
Many styles of commercial hummingbird feeders are available. The feeders most attractive have some red color located on them and incorporate perches. Although you can buy nectar, a much cheaper and equally nutritious mixture can be made by mixing one part white table sugar with four parts boiling water. Make sure all of the sugar is dissolved in the boiling water; remove from heat and chill. Do not increase the amount of sugar in the mixture because higher concentrations of sugar can damage the kidneys of hummingbirds. In addition, do not use honey or artificial sweeteners. Honey provides a good medium for the growth of bacteria and fungi that may be FATAL to hummingbirds. Artificial sweeteners do not provide the necessary calories required for the hummingbird’s high metabolism. Also, you do not need to add red food coloring to attract hummers.
A note of caution is needed here. To prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and fungus, clean your feeder once a week. Discard the old solution, and clean the feeder with very hot, soapy water and a bottle brush to reach the small nooks and crannies. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.
Hummingbirds are highly protective of their territories surrounding feeders and will actively chase away other hummers. Their aerial antics and chases are always amazing to watch.
So put up a feeder. You will be rewarded with a summer full of active, delightful hummingbirds. For more information contact the West Virginia DNR Wildlife Resources Section, P.O. Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241 or call (304)-637-0245.