By Terri Estes

This week we are stepping away from our canine friends to focus on the hummingbird. As the warm weather approaches, so do the hummingbirds, as they migrate north from Central and South America to their breeding grounds. These tiny birds are usually around 3-4 inches long and weigh between 0.1-0.4 ounces. Despite their small size, hummingbirds are incredibly agile and have remarkable flying abilities, allowing them to hover, fly backwards and make rapid changes in direction during flight. The first hummers usually show up in our area around mid to late April. There is an interactive hummingbird migration map on a website called Hummingbird Central. It tracks the yearly migration of hummingbirds across North America based on sightings from birdwatchers.

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds in the world. They are only found in the Americas, ranging from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The majority of hummingbirds are found in Central and South America. However, a few species also breed in the United States and Canada. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species that breeds east of the Mississippi River. If you spot a hummingbird in Rockaway, chances are that it is a ruby throated. A male ruby-throated hummingbird has a bright red throat patch and a dark head with a white chest or belly. Females are less colorful with an iridescent green body and a white belly.

Attracting hummingbirds to your yard is not as hard as you would think. Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers, especially red ones. You can plant their favorite nectar flowers such as bee balm, cardinal flower and trumpet vine. You can also hang a hummingbird feeder in a quiet corner of your yard. Hummingbird feeders work great, and it is very easy to make hummingbird food with one-part cane sugar dissolved in four-parts water. I take a quart of filtered water from my fridge and add one cup of sugar and dissolve it in the microwave and then let it cool. The hummers love it! You can refrigerate what you don’t use for up to a week. You do have to clean out your feeder every four or five days because the sugar water will get moldy and can harm the birds. I rinse my feeders in hot water and add new sugar water every four days and those little birds must be watching me because as soon as the fresh mixture is in the feeder, the hummers appear. These little birds have a high metabolism and once they discover your feeder, they will show up dozens of times a day. They also remember their favorite sites and will return year after year.  

Spotting a hummingbird in your yard is a special treat.  They are fascinating to watch and once they get comfortable in your yard, they will become frequent flyers. So, good luck and if you have success attracting this elusive little bird, please share your pictures to The Rockaway Times!


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