For the Birds: Hummingbirds — Our Local Aerial Displayers

Monday, November 2, 2020

Pugnacious male Anna's guarding all visible feeders

By Christine Southwick
Photos by Craig Kerns

Who hasn’t been thrilled by watching hummingbirds hover over bright flowers, dart over our heads, or even fly backwards?

Our resident Anna’s Hummingbirds and our seasonal Rufous Hummingbirds come to the feeders we put out and delight us with their brilliant colors and territorial displays.

This female Anna's is cold -- that's why she is fluffed up

Most people put these feeders where they can watch the hummers from a window. Many of us end up putting up a couple of feeders, spaced far enough apart that the dominant male has to fly back and forth to chase away other hummingbirds, thus enabling other hummers to partake of the provided sugar water.

Light keeping sugar water liquid (and Anna's warm too)

Feeders are easy to maintain. 

Nectar is ¼ cup of sugar (cane not beet) to one cup of water. During the summer feeders should be cleaned every 2-4 days, in cool weather every 4-7 days. Mold is hazardous to hummers. I don’t use red food coloring because that may be hazardous to hummingbirds too. I also have weather guards over my feeders — it keeps rain, and the occasional snow off the feeders and the hummers.

Anna’s eat more bugs than any other North American hummingbird (according to a study by the San Diego Zoo).

That is one of the reasons why these flying jewels have been able to become residents (and another reason not to use pesticides). Here in Western Washington we have planted many flowering plants and welcomed these aerial acrobats into our yards.

Do you know that it is most important to maintain your hummingbird feeders in the wintertime? 

Snow on a winter feeder

From about October though early May (depending on how cold the weather is), Anna’s supplement their daily nutrition with neighborhood feeders. The flowers are mostly gone, and a cold snap will kill most of the small bugs for a while. 

What are they to do? Why, find a local hummingbird feeder, and hope that it is being kept filled, clean, and liquid. Most Anna’s have a neighborhood route that they follow, so they often show up at each feeder at about the same time.

When it freezes, Anna’s will feed into dark on cold evenings before shutting down into tupor during the night to preserve energy, and they start going to feeders looking for much-needed instant energy just before daylight. That is why it is so important to keep the feeders liquid, either with a feeder heater, a light, or a taped-on handwarmer.

The Anna’s here will thank you, so enjoy!


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