Monday, September 3, 2012

Late Season Hummingbirds

 It wont be long before the rest of the Ruby-throated hummingbirds will be leaving my yard and traveling south to warmer regions for the winter. Many of the adults, especially males, have already left for the summer.

They have been very active in the garden and around my feeders this summer, but I never get tired of watching them.

Ruby-throated hummingbird at feeder, bird

Many think that hummingbird feeders should be removed this time of year because it will interfere with their fall migration. For those unaware, that’s a myth. Hummingbirds will still migrate even if you don’t take down the feeders on Labor Day. It’s not the availability of food; it’s in response to hormonal changes, which are triggered by decreasing length of daylight.

Unless we get an early freeze, I’ll keep my hummingbird feeders up until Thanksgiving. It’s not uncommon to see migrating hummingbirds here in SE Virginia in late fall on warm days. They welcome the extra nourishment to help fuel their long flights.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds at feeder, birds

In fact, hummingbirds will often return to the same feeder on the next trip north or south, just to see if it’s still there. Studies indicate that hummingbirds have great memories.

The recipe for hummingbird nectar is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar (no substitutes). I heat mine in a pot on the stovetop until the sugar is dissolved, and store any extra in a pitcher placed in the refrigerator. And don’t add red dye to the mixture. Most feeders are already red. If it’s not, tie a red ribbon or place a red bow on the feeder until they find it. Once they find it, they will keep coming back as long as it’s kept clean. Also, be sure to replace the sugar water in the feeder every few days.

An alternative to feeders is the use of flowers to attract hummingbirds – especially flowers that continue to bloom until frost. Check out some of their favorites in my garden right now.

Cardinal Climber Vine, Cypress Vine, Hummingbird

Cardinal climber, also referred to as cypress vine, can twine 20 feet or more, but the little red tube like flowers are pretty small. The hummers are thankful that the flowers are still in bloom.

Nearby the cardinal climber is another favorite, Salvia guaranitica, ‘Black & Blue’ salvia.

Salvia guaranitica, Black & Blue salvia, Hummingbird

Another salvia that’s on the menu is Salvia microphylla, 'Hot Lips' salvia.

Salvia microphylla, Hot Lips salvia, Hummingbirds

And probably their favorite in my garden at the moment is Lonicera sempervirens, Coral honeysuckle.

Lonicera sempervirens, Coral honeysuckle, Hummingbird

Whether you provide a feeder or flowers to attract hummingbirds, take time to enjoy them in your own yard and enjoy the rest of your Labor Day!

Hummingbird silhouette, Ruby-throated hummingbird