For the birds: Ruby-throated hummingbirds are back | Local News
The Journey North website noted on March 15 that the migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds has started slowly for the spring of 2022. According to the website, Journey North volunteers along the Gulf Coast and in the southeast note new arrivals, but the total number of reports is lower than at the same time last year.
In a March 22 announcement, Journey North said the pace has picked up. After a slow start, according to the website, the migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds is resuming in the southeastern United States.
According to the website, most early spring sightings of hummingbirds are males, although a few females are spotted. Male hummingbirds, the post notes, arrive first so they can find and defend territory.
The first reports of ruby-throated hummingbird migrations began in early March from the Gulf Coast. Observers in states like Texas and Louisiana reported ruby-throated hummingbirds as early as March 1.
The website noted that spring migration is a tough time for hummingbirds. Temperature, wind patterns and storms can influence the rate of migration.
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Even after these little birds make their epic spring crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, they’ll need time to rest and refuel before heading north. By mid-March, the advance of ruby-throated hummingbirds had reached states like Georgia and South Carolina. In late March, the first reports began arriving at Journey North from Tennessee and North Carolina.
Now that the ruby-throated hummingbirds have officially returned to the Willing State and its neighbors, it’s time to put out those sugar water feeders. Consider planting colorful native flowers to provide sources of nectar for hummingbirds.
Northeast Tennessee typically receives its first spring hummingbirds the first week of April. If you see hummingbirds, I’d like to know. I’ve been tracking arrivals for several years now. To share your first spring sighting of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler. Please include the date and time of your sighting.
In the meantime, take steps now to welcome hummingbirds back and keep them safe during their stay.
Some ways to ensure our hummingbird guests are kept healthy and safe are just common sense. For example, don’t use pesticides, herbicides, or any other kind of toxin near a sugar water dispenser or flower garden. Hummingbirds are such small creatures with such intense metabolisms that it only takes a small amount of any harmful substance to sicken or kill one of these little flying gems.
Feeding hummingbirds is easy, but many people try to complicate the process. Only pure, common cane sugar, mixed in a ratio of four parts water to one part sugar, is a safe choice for these birds.
To emphasize, I will repeat again that only pure, common cane sugar is safe for hummingbirds. There are no safe substitutes. Do not use organic, raw or brown sugar. Confectioner’s sugar, which contains an anti-caking substance (often corn starch, silicates or stearate salts), is also dangerous for hummingbirds.
There is also a type of sugar known as turbinado sugar, which gets its name from the process of spinning the sugar in turbines to crystallize it. The crystals are rich in vitamins and minerals valuable to human health, but they are deadly to hummingbirds. Iron is one of the minerals found in turbinado sugar. Hummingbird metabolism has a low tolerance to iron, which is present in molasses added to brown sugar and in agave nectar. They are natural substances, but that does not make them safe for hummingbirds.
The ratio of four parts water to one part sugar using pure cane sugar most closely replicates the nectar hummingbirds get from some of their favorite flowers. Why try to play with nature’s perfection?
I can’t imagine why anyone would supplement sugar water for hummingbirds with human drinks such as a sports drink or Kool-aid, but there have been reports of people doing so. Be aware that such additives will only endanger the health of these small birds.
Most experts also suggest avoiding red dyes, which are often found in sugar water marketed to hummingbirds. Don’t risk the hummingbirds’ health for a little convenience.
It’s easy to make your own sugar water mix, which can be stored in the refrigerator in an empty plastic juice pitcher. Boil some water, then add one cup of sugar to three cups of water in your saucepan. Mix well. Bottle the mixture until it cools. Fill your feeders and store the remaining sugar water in the refrigerator in the aforementioned jug. Refrigerated, the mixture should stay good to use for at least a week.
In our milder spring climate, changing the sugar water in the feeders can probably be done on a weekly basis. When summer temperatures are warmer, it is usually necessary to change the sugar water every few days.