Answers From the Hummingbird Expert
Teaching Suggestions | Q & A
Q: When should I put out my hummingbird feeder? I live in Wilmington, Delaware and have enjoyed the ruby-throated hummer for many years. Last week I noticed they were sighted in the southeastern states. I believe the "scouts" will be shopping soon for their season home. Thank you in advance for your help.
A: There aren't any scouts, some hummingbirds simply migrate earlier than others. If you're watching the map, you know someone in Delaware reported a hummer on March 27, 2008. So NOW would be a good time!
Q: Isn't it better to
attract hummers with natural plants? How can we do this in our school? We
do have gardens, what plants should we use? I heard that feeders are bad for the birds because
the sugar-based food sits in the sun, can grow fungus, and also ferments
to alcohol. All this can actually make birds sick.
Q: What kinds of hummingbirds can I find around my school?
Q: When is the best time to put a feeder out to start attracting the hummers? When is the earliest time to put a feeder out in these North Woods? I live in Iron River, Michigan.
A: Watch the map. Bear in mind that most hummingbirds will arrive a few weeks after the earliest sightings.
Q: Are the hummingbird moths a danger to the hummingbirds? We only had 1 hummingbird last year. Normally we have several. But we saw several of what looks to me like a hummingbird moth.
A: Sphinx moths are completely harmless.
Q: Do you have a video about a hummingbird hatching?
A: No, sorry. But we do have some slideshows. Go to the hummingbird study's Journey North for Kids feature to see them.
Q: Their size amazes me! How big are they when they hatch?
A: About the size of a honeybee.
Q: What's the best way to attract hummers? My husband and I live in Darien, Illinois. He tries every year to get
a glimpse of a few hummingbirds with his feeder. It is hit or miss. He
uses the red sugar water. Is there a better way?
Q: Is it true hummers won't feed from a feeder with any sort of strange smell? I have multiple hummingbird feeders. They totally avoid one of my feeders. They sit down, put their tiny head down, then fly off to the next one. Last year I had only one and I found myself filling that feeder every day.
A: No, a hummingbird's sense of smell is not very good. But their sense of taste is excellent, and there's probably something in that feeder they don't like, such as soap or mold. Try soaking the feeder in a dilute bleach solution.
Is there a reason I am seeing females when the hummingbirds first arrive and then later in the summer I see males?
Q: Since my hummers share the backyard with all their feathered friends, are there any species that would pose a danger or threat to their safety? We reside in South Jersey. I have many feeders for many different species of bird that visit my backyard on a daily basis, and this includes the hummers.
A: Hummers can take care of themselves and are not easy to catch. A few get eaten by hawks, flycatchers, and orioles. Seed-eaters are no threat.
are the lowest temperatures that hummingbirds can withstand?
Q: Is it true that their chirps are noises made by the tails?
Q: The commercial hummer food has protein and vitamins plus calcium in it which I was told hummers need especially in early spring. The females need the most calcium but it has that red dye in it. Is there a home made solution that I can make that has vitamins plus calcium in it without the dye?
A: Hummingbirds get all the nutrition they need from the insects and spiders they catch, as they have for thousands of years. The sugar in your feeder provides energy they can use to hunt bugs. Please just use plain sugar and water in your feeder, and don't buy commercial mixes.
are the reasons that a mother would not return to the nest when babies
have recently hatched? We were excited to discover a nest with two eggs
in our orange tree and then to find them hatched three days later. It
was March 10 in Southern California and still pretty cold at night. I
took pictures up close once when the mother was away from the nest (not
touching anything of course). A few days later I realized I hadn't seen
the mother around. The next day I looked into the nest and saw that the
babies had died. We were devastated and worried that maybe it was because
we had taken those pictures and the mother had seen us close to the nest.
Is that the likely explanation?
Q: Why are there gaps of time in feeder visits? I'm amazed at how consistent the hummingbirds are. They have arrived at
my feeders within a day or two of April 25 the past several years. I have
noticed too that they seem to disappear or lay low every year for about
2 weeks or so starting around May 20. They stop visiting the feeders.
I may see a straggler here and there but for the most part they stop visiting
the feeders. Then after about 2 weeeks the activity level picks right
up again. My guess is that it has something to do with breeding. What's
up with the layoff?
Q. How do you register the information?