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The Hummingbirds Are Back!

Male Broad-tailed Hummingbird feeding from a feeder.

By: Scott Rashid Director of CARRI

As you’ve noticed, the hummingbirds are back! At least the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are back. The rufous and calliope hummingbirds will arrive in July. The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is the only hummingbird species that nests in the area. The males began arriving around April 15th. The females usually arrive a few days, even weeks later.

The first hummers are often heard before they’re seen as the buzzing sound emitted by the wings of the male, announce their presence. The outer primary flight feathers of the male Broad-tailed Hummingbird are shaped in such a way that when the birds fly, their feathers cut through the air creating, what I call, a “metallic buzzing sound.”

This time of year, the hummingbirds glean insects and nectar from the wax current bushes. Later, as more wildflowers bloom, the birds will be feeding on the nectar from flowers as well as the insects such as gnats and aphids.

A close up of the flight feathers that make the buzzing sound when the male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds fly.

Many of us have placed hummingbird feeders, with sugar water, to attract hummingbirds. Keep in mind that this sugar water is just a supplement to the bird’s diet. When making sugar water, I use a mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. (This could be 1 cup if sugar to 4 cups water, for example.) You can boil the sugar water, or just mix the hot tap water as long as the sugar is completely dissolved. Make sure to cool the sugar water before placing it in your hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds get energy from the sugar water, yet they get their protein from the nectar and the insects that they consume.

This time of year, I place about 1 cup of sugar water in our feeders at one time. This way I make sure that the sugar water is gone in two to three days. After the third day, I throw out any leftover sugar water and wash the feeder with soap and water, making sure it is well rinsed before refilling. If the hummers taste soap, they will fly off and not eat at your feeders.

As I notice the sugar water in my feeders being consumed in a day, I place more in each feeder. When hummingbirds are feeding, at a feeder you most often see them perched on opposite sides of the feeder. This is because hummingbirds don’t like to perch on a feeder and see other hummingbirds. The more feeders you place in your yard, the more hummingbirds you will attract. If you live in an area that has several pine and spruce, you will always have more hummers that those of us that have only three trees in our yard.

I trap and band about 300 hummingbirds each year, and have been doing so for the past 14 years. Last year, 2011, I recaptured one of my female hummingbirds that I originally banded in 2001 making that hummer 10 years old! Most hummingbirds that I have recapture are between two and four years old. Interestingly enough, females tend to out live males.

CARRI, P.O. Box 3351 Estes Park, CO. 80517. Feel free to contact Scott Rashid at 577-1794 with any questions.

 

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