Hummingbirds Are Cool

— Written By

hummingbird on a feeder

I think hummingbirds are about the coolest birds around. I have a hummingbird feeder used by birds a little bit during the spring and summer. However, in late summer, the activity picks up greatly around my feeder. There is a reason for that increase in activity.

You see, the birds have started their long migration to the winter territory in Mexico and Central America – a huge undertaking for these diminutive creatures. In preparation for this trip, hummingbirds gain 25% to 40% of their body weight to help sustain them on their long journey. This time of year, there are fewer flowers to provide nectar to help fatten them up. That is why a feeder is important in the fall to help prepare the birds for their trip, and feed birds migrating through our area. 

According to Hummingbird Central, the predominant species in our area on the east coast is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. During this time of year, they are traveling, or preparing to travel south. These birds refuel their bodies in the morning by foraging for nectar and insects. They travel during the mid-day, and then in the evening they forage more to refuel and maintain their strength and body weight.

To help them out, why not put up a hummingbird feeder? These are inexpensive, can be purchased locally, and you can make the “nectar” or sugar water yourself for very little cost. All you do is boil water to sterilize it and add sugar in a 4 to 1 ratio. So, if you use four cups of water, mix in one cup of sugar. When it cools, you can load it into your feeder and keep any additional food in your refrigerator for refills. Although you can purchase hummingbird food, it is easy to make your own and you know it is clean and fresh. Be sure to clean your feeder weekly.

Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so most feeders are red in color. If you make your own food, avoid the temptation to add food coloring to your mixture as it is not good for the birds. To help birds find your feeder, you can put bright red objects close by. Potted plants such as geraniums with bright blooms can help the birds find your feeder as well.

So, what do you get for all of this effort? By putting out a feeder, you will have the opportunity to observe these amazing creatures close up. You will also be helping provide nutrition and energy for their long trip to their winter habitat. It could spark your imagination and interest so that you learn more about these tiny creatures. Therefore, I challenge you to put out a hummingbird feeder. Remember that, in the spring, the birds return north, so you can help them again on their spring migration, as well as having hummingbirds visit your feeder throughout the summer. 

Here are some links to sites that can provide you with more information about the habits of hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Hummingbird Central – Hummingbird Migration

Hummingbird Guide – Hummingbird Migration

Be sure to check out online learning opportunities offered by N.C. Cooperative Extension in Currituck County by visiting our website

For more information or questions regarding any Currituck County 4-H activities please contact Billy Caudle at (252) 232-2262 or by email at billy_caudle@ncsu.edu.