Hosting hummingbirds at home

This month I have to admit I was struggling for a topic to write about. I really wanted to delve into the topic of wildfires since we seem to be getting a bit of smoke from current fires in Canada. This is not all that unusual as I can think of several instances in the past when smoke has come across the big lake and over the Keweenaw. I found that I need to do a bit more research on the topic to be able to write about it, so let’s focus on a popular topic, birds.

The late spring is when many people bring in their bird feeders. During the summer there is plenty of food available for the birds and leaving the feeder out may attract other unwanted guests such as raccoons or even black bears. On the other hand, this is the time of year when hummingbird feeders can be put out to attract those marvelous little creatures.

Hummingbirds have a high metabolism and require excessive amounts of calories to survive. In order to do this they eat frequently. The primary source of their caloric intake is the nectar from flowers. The nectar contains a variety of sugars, water, and trace amounts of other nutrients and protein. To supplement their protein needs they also feed on small soft bodied insects. Hummingbird feeders are primarily used to supplement these caloric needs.

By varying the ratio of sugar to water you can potentially manipulate the frequency the birds come to feed: The stronger the sugar content, the less frequent the visit. If you want to make your own nectar, it’s fairly easy. You can mix cane sugar and water together in a ratio anywhere from four parts water to one part sugar to one part water to one part sugar. Heat this mixture to just about boiling then cover and allow it to cool before filling your feeder. The heating of the solution does two things, it drives off any chlorine that may be in your tap water and it kills off any mold, yeast, or bacteria that may have been in the mixture. The feeder should also be checked and cleaned regularly to ensure that no mold or bacterial build up that may potential be harmful to the birds.

Around the Copper Country we are limited almost exclusively to one species of hummingbird, the ruby-throated hummingbird. These birds spend the summer in our area to mate and prepare for their long journey to their wintering grounds as far away as Central America. During the mating ritual the male will establish a territory and prevent other males from entering it. If a female takes notice the male will perform a flight display in front of her. If she is responsive the birds will mate. Other than that interaction, hummingbirds prefer a solitary life and are actually aggressive toward other hummingbirds. The female will go off and lay two small eggs in a delicately prepared nest and rear the young on her own.