Pallida(Zone 7b)August 16, 2012

Hummers made the news yesterday, in case you missed it. It seems that the drought is so severe, that the little "jewels" can't find enough native plants that, normally, afford them nectar, so they are swarming feeders. Interviewing one lady, she is keeping twenty (20) feeders filled. There was a shot of feeders covered with the little birds. That is so unusual, as they don't like to share, as a rule. My feeders are being swarmed, but the most birds on a feeder at a time is two. Migration is approaching, so we need to keep our feeders filled, so the birds will have enough strength to fly South.

Recipe for Nectar:

I part sugar

4 parts boiled, cooled water

it would not hurt to make the nectar a little stronger, 1 part sugar to 3 parts water, for more nourishment.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I saw that article.

I disagree, though, with the idea of making a 3:1 mixture. Many scientists feel that a concentration higher than the standard 4:1 formula can cause organ damage. The reason they recommend 4:1 is that it is the forumula that contains sucrose at about the same amount (21%) as natural nectar.

Also, nectars with a higher amount of sugar attract more pests, so they are just asking for trouble.

One part of the linked article below discusses hummingbird nutrition and why the 4:1 concentration is believed safest for the birds.


Here is a link that might be useful: Nutrition For Hummingbirds

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:54AM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Hi, Dawn

Well, now I am confused. I got the increased sugar info off of a wildlife gardening site. It said the birds need more energy for their long journey. I guess the safe ratio is 4/1. Anyway, just want the little birds to have what they need for survival..........


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:07PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It is hard to know what site to trust because essentially anyone can say anything on any website and that won't make it true.

I try to go with info that has research backing it up....and you know how that goes, because often conflicting research exists as well.

I have seen the 3:1 ratio recommended in early spring when they are migrating too though I don't remember which source recommended that, but since the research says 4:1 is safest and most like the percentage of sugar in natural nectar, that's the ratio I go with. I wouldn't want to do anything that would hurt them.

I don't know how much energy their body stores or how far in advance they can begin storing up for the long journey. One thing I have noticed is how smart they are. They will seek out the native plants that provide nectar first and will ignore the feeders when there is plenty to eat from flowers blooming in the yard. I think that they know natural nectar is best for them when it is available.

I also think we get a lot more returnees than we realize, because every year I tend to move the feeders around a little bit, and returning hummers will repeatedly go to where the feeders used to be last year instead of where they are now. How they can remember that for multiple locations amazes me.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:27PM
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I've increased my feeders from 4 to 7. And 3 are the LARGE containers. I originally did this in hopes of reducing the mosquito population, although there are conflicting reports as to whether they eat mosquitoes. I prepare 2 gallons of nectar at a time and I'm re-filling every 4 days or so.

Since you guys have researched, do you think I'm harming them in anyway but microwaving my nectar? I just don't have the time to boil and cool. It would be the next day before I had time to fill the feeders if I did it the other way (which I have until this year).

I really get a kick out of watching them for a few moments every morning & evening. There's always one that's so busy defending "his" feeder that he hardly gets any! The others just watch so they can sweep in while he's busy chasing another away! All of mine are hung where I can see them from either the front or the back of the house.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:06PM
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Envious! I am envious! I have yet to see a single hummingbird...maybe we'll get a storm and they'll get blown off course and come to see me before they fly south :~P


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:49PM
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I thought the higher sugar concentrate solution was used for overwintering bird in cool locations in order for them to maintain a certain energy level. No?

I have 3 still.....I think..... But today, I noticed the level in the feeder is decreasing faster than it was a couple of days ago. I can't monitor it closely tomorrow but will Saturday just in case my numbers are increasing, too. Poor hummers!

That pretty much says it. If the hummers are having a hard time finding nectar, you know the Monarchs will, too. Thanks goodness I have some food for them as well.

Additional complications may include the spraying they are doing in Texas for mosquitoes due to rise in West Nile Virus. This is harmful to birds, butterflies, and other insects as well. They say it is no more harmful than the sprays we use in our home, but did you ever spray your home and expect the invaders to survive????? Uh, no!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:06PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

Now that I think about it, it WAS Spring when I read on the Wildlife Gardening site that he increases his sugar mixture to help the returning birds build up their strength after the long migration flight. As I said, I just want the little guys to get what they need to stay healthy, and you are so right about them seeking out the previous year's locations. I, too, believe that, at least, some of them are the same birds.

I have NO idea if nuked water is as safe as boiled water, although I nuke instant coffee all of the time and feel that it is safe, BUT, I would not use a plastic container, as plastic supposedly leeches chemicals into the food.

I am SO sorry that you are still not seeing any Hummers! If they are short on natural nectar because of fewer wildflowers, maybe, just maybe, they will come to your feeders during migration, and then remember to return next year. Hope so!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:28PM
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Pallida(Zone 7b)

I am not aware of "overwintering" HB's except for certain species in far Southern states. There will be young birds and stragglers who migrate late (migration is, normally, late August to mid September), so we need to leave out our feeders beyond the normal migration time to feed these "late" migraters.
It makes me sad to think the beautiful little birds and the Monarchs flights are endangered by bug sprays! As dry as it is, just WHERE are the Mosquitos breeding?


    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 12:18AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Wow! You are having a lot of hummers. I appreciate so much what you are doing to help them. Your drought there is so very bad this year that I don't know what they would do without folks like you feeding them.....and that's especially true since the recent wildfires may have wiped out many acres of whatever native plants were producing any nectar they could use.

I do not believe microwaving your solution would be harmful, especially as often as you're having to refill. I wouldn't think the nectar would have time to ferment or that mold would have much of a chance to get growing.

Sharon, You just need to go to Paula's house with a butterfly net and kidnap some hummers to bring back to your place.

Susan, I haven't seen any research in support of feeding overwintering hummers nectar at a higher concentration, but then I haven't been looking at it because they don't overwinter here in my area as far as I know. It would seem to me that it wouldn't be safe to give them the higher concentration, unless there are seasonal changes in their metabolism that would make them metabolize the higher concentration more quickly so it wouldn't damage their liver and kidneys.

I am concerned about the spraying in Texas. If they kill all the little insects that the hummers rely upon for protein, then what? Hmmm. I realize city officials in Texas feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and are trying to do their best to protect their population, but it is the little wild things that will suffer. Why can't they just tell people to use a repellent, to stay indoors as much as possible at dawn and dusk, and to wear long sleeves and long pants when outside at peak mosquito time? I worked in the garden yesterday afternoon and evening, wearing long sleeves and long pants, and well-sprayed with Deep Woods Off. No mosquitoes came near me. The cities could do what many of us do and put Bti mosquito dunks in places where there is standing water that lacks fish to eat the mosquito larvae. Why spray and kill all the little insects that are a part of other living creastures' food web? I think that the amount of spraying needed to truly knock down the mosquito population is mind-boggling, and I wonder if they even spray enough to truly help or if the spraying is more for show.

Jeanie, I know that there are some people in Arkansas and Texas who pretty regularly have a stray hummer overwintering here and there. They make the news just about every year. I am in an especially cold microclimate since cold air sinks and we've never had one overwinter here. However, in the year we didn't get a hard freeze until mid-December, I remember having hummers really late--almost until Thanksgiving. Why not, though? I still had salvia, morning glories, honeysuckle, trumpet creeper, cross vine and other things in bloom for them, so why would they leave and head further south? At least they got smart and eventually went on southward.

Where are the mosquitoes breeding? I can think of lots of places. For example, even as creeks dry up there will be little pools and puddles that persist. Many ponds here are pretty low, but the spring-fed ones aren't. In Dallas and Fort Worth, they say the mosquitoes breed in little pools and puddles in the storm drain system, so they were excited about this week's rain because they felt like it would flush out such stagnant areas where mosquitoes have been breeding.

There are 4 confirmed WNV cases in Grayson County southeast of us in Texas, but the commissioners there have not declared a public health emergency and are not spraying, yet. Yay! Our county has been one of the wettest spots in Oklahoma this summer, and yet I haven't seen many mosquitoes at all. We did have them for about 10-12 days after the very heavy rainfall that fell during the last couple of days in May and first week in June. Since then, we haven't had enough rain at one time for the puddles to stick around long enough for mosquitoes to breed in them. I am really careful about emptying out the dogs' water buckets daily and refilling them with clean water, and do the same with the chicken waterers and the wading pools of water we put out for the wildlife to drink from. Our lily pond has fish in it to eat mosquitoes. Still, I don't think I've seen a one since June, and you'd think that with the Red River so close to us, we'd have mosquitoes. As the river depth drops, there's all kinds of ponding and puddling in between sand bars and such, but we remain mosquito free. Knock on wood.

I think that we may see some wildflowers make a good resurgence here for fall blooms if a little more rain falls, We've had nearly an inch this week and that means the wildflowers that were barely hanging on may be able to hang on a little longer. More rain sure would help in terms of having something for the monarch migration. The last two years they've turned west even before getting this far south, so if they do that again, it won't matter that flowers are blooming here.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:33AM
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