Now that March has arrived, the annual spring invasion of the ruby-throated hummingbird has begun.
The first migrants begin trickling into the state during the first two weeks of the month. With each passing day, the number of birds flooding into the state swells as the migration advances steadily northward.
The birds reach Colquitt, located in the southwest corner of the Peach State anywhere from March 11 to 13. In comparison, I usually see my first ruby-throated hummingbird in my middle Georgia backyard on March 18. However, it is not unusual for friends living along the border between Georgia and Tennessee to spot the first hummingbird of spring until April 1.
The males are the first to arrive. Some seven to ten days later, the females begin showing up at our feeders. However, do not be surprised if the first rubythroat you happen to see is a female–the often happens to me. This simply means that I either failed to notice the first males that passed through my neck of the woods, or they simply passed by my backyard without giving it a second glance.
Some people go the great lengths to ensure that the first migrants make a stop in their yard. For example, knowing that rubythroats are attracted to red, homeowners have been known to attach red flagging tape to some of their shrubs in hopes of decoying the birds into their yards. The rationale is that, as the tiny migrants fly by. they might mistake the red tape for red flowers and drop in for a visit. Although they know the birds will quickly discover they have been duped, they hope the birds will find their feeders laden with sugar water and stick around for a sugary meal or two. I cannot say whether this ruse actually works, but I am sure that it doesn’t hurt to try.
The approach I take is to make sure that the birds have a feeder stocked with fresh nectar when they do appear. This is easy for me; as I keep at last one hummingbird feeder out all winter in hopes of attract a wintering hummingbird.
If you don’t try to entice winter hummingbirds to take up residence in your yard, and have been meaning to put out a feeder for the northbound migrants–do so now. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me they have seen their first hummer of the year hovering at the exact spot where a hummingbird feeder hung the year before. When this happens, they experience a feeling of guilt. Then they scramble to take a hummingbird feeder off the shelf, fill it with nectar, and hang it before the bird departs for a more yard that is already offering hummingbirds an early spring meal.
If you do not want this to happen to you, act now. I am sure that the last thing you want to do is begin the hummingbird season on a sour note. Believe me, the invasion has started; and it is only a matter of time before the ruby-throated hummingbirds’ first aerial assault of the spring will be directed at your yard. Let’s all hope we will be blessed with a long and enjoyable hummingbird season.