Master Gardeners: Hummingbirds are starting to migrate
By Sheri Bethard
Orange County Master Gardeners
Today (or at least when writing this article) is September 1. Sometimes we think of this month as the beginning of the fall season even tho fall does not officially start until the 23rd (my birthday, ha ha). The beautiful little creatures we call Hummingbirds will start to visit your feeders more often as they are working their way down to Mexico and parts south for the winter. Yesterday, we have noticed a few more birds at trying to get at our feeder. As soon as one would perch, another would dive bomb him and off they would go chasing each other until one is successful and comes back to the feeder. He barely has time to perch and here comes his foe again and back to the same old game of fighting and chasing each other.
Hummingbirds are an amazing sight to watch. They can hoover in one place and flapping their wings so fast making them like Speedy Gonzales (the cute little mouse from cartoons in the 50’s and 60’s watching him speed thru the scenes). But most of you know the wonders of Hummingbirds.
Let’s talk about their migrations south. You should make sure your gardens are ready for them passing thru. Hummingbirds need places to rest along their migration route as the biggest part of their migration is soon to start. We are one of their last stops along their route south. These tiny, jeweled creatures will fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico to reach a southern shore. This is about 500 miles they will fly continuously until they reach their southern destination. This is about 22 hours or more of flying. And remember they do this same route again in the spring.
So, with this information we need to help them bulk up to make this long-distance journey. Provide them with plenty of places they can perch and rest. You can provide multiple feeders for them to drink from, but you need to keep them cleaned, changing them every 4-5 days putting out fresh juice. You do not want black mold to grow on the feeders as this will harm hummers. If you purchase hummingbird food aka juice, make sure it is safe for them. if you make your own do not use red dye as this is also harmful to them. they also need a fresh supply of water. They like running water such as a fountain in a birdbath.
Flowers that attract hummingbirds are brightly colored such as zinnias and coneflowers. They also like flowering tubular shaped flowers such as the Firebush, Cuphea, Salvias (Blue or Hot Lips), Red Shrimp plant, Red Firecracker Fern. I have seen them go for my Pride of Barbados flowers. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a great website for more varieties of flowers for hummingbirds at www.wildflower.org.
Not all hummingbirds fly south for the winter. We have had the Rufous (a yellow/orange colored) hummers hang around in past winters at our feeder, so you might want to keep at least one feeder up all year, still changing the juice every 4-5 days with a new feeder. So one a cold, dreary day, a little bird might come visit your feeder and it will be a big bright spot for you to see cheering up your otherwise drab day.
For more information on how you can help hummingbirds visit www.hummingbirdsociety.org.
For more horticultural and gardening information visit our website https://txmg.org/orange or our Facebook page Orange County Texas Master Gardeners and check out our files section. To get your questions answered please call our Hot-Line 409 882-7010 Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be my last newsletter as we are moving out of state. John Green will be taking over writing the weekly articles. Hope you have enjoyed my articles the past number of years and you will enjoy reading John’s in the future.