- I have a confession; I enjoy watching
hummingbirds. Chances are that you do too. So what makes
the smallest of all the birds, these little jewels of
the avian world, so endearing to us? Is it their size?
Their colors and beauty? Could it be the fact that they
are the only bird that can fly upside down, forwards and
backwards or in a spiral as well as hover? Whatever the
reason you can bet they are fun to watch in your garden
or at a feeder.
- The only species that breeds in Georgia, as well
as east of the Rockies, is the Ruby-throated
Hummingbird. If you have a hummer at your house right
now chances are somewhere around 100% that it is a
Ruby-throated. The name is derived from the red gorget,
the throat area under the male's beak. The female
Ruby-throated lacks the red throat as do immature males.
As in most bird species the male hummingbird is more
colorful than the female.
During August our hummingbird numbers peak as the
adult birds are here as well as this years hatch birds.
If you have flowers or a feeder at your house chances
are good that you see lots of hummingbirds at the
present time. But why are they always chasing each other
and fighting you may ask?
In addition to consuming small flying insects a
hummingbird's beak is specially adapted for feeding on
nectar in flower blooms. In order to do so they must
hover, in mid-air, over the bloom and insert their beak
into the flower. Their straw-like tongue licks up the
nectar in the flower. While in flight a hummingbirds
heart rate can reach 1,260 beats/minute with respiration
at 250 breaths/minute. Those numbers would get any
cardiologist's attention were it not for the fact that
this is perfectly normal for this bird. So with that
kind of metabolism it is absolutely essential that these
birds feed often to sustain life!
When a hummingbird finds a patch of flowers or a
sugar-water feeder it means FOOD. Food means life. So
the bird defends that source of food as if his life
depends on it. Come to think of it, it does. When a
trespasser approaches a feeder or flower another
hummingbird might just fly towards it to chase it away
as if to say, "This is my area to feed. Get away!"
This might be a good time to review a few
hummingbird feeding tips.
- 1. Mix your own sugar water solution: 4 parts
water to one part sugar. There is no need to boil the
- 2. Do NOT put food coloring in the solution.
Studies have shown the dyes in food coloring are
unhealthy for the birds. The red color of the feeder is
all that is needed to attract the birds.
- 3. Never use honey or any sugar substitutes. Just
plain, granulated sugar is all that should be used.
- 4. Keep feeders clean. Wash them thoroughly,
inside and out, each time you refill. Clean all mildew
from the feeder. You can buy a small brush to clean the
- 5. Don't put out more sugar water than your birds
can consume before the solution goes bad. Remember hot,
humid weather coupled with sugar water is a recipe for
mildew to thrive.
- 6. In August and September cluster your feeders
near each other. This should discourage a bully
hummingbird from trying to monopolize all of them.
Hopefully he, or she, will tire out from chasing the
other birds away and allow groups of hummers to feed
alongside each other.
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird facts: