Our unseasonably warm winter this year has raised expectations the ruby-throated hummingbird migration will be early this year. As with most bold predictions, I suspect this one will prove to be wrong for the rubythroats that breed or pass through the Peach State.
For years, the first report of the arrival of a ruby-throated hummingbird I received each year came from the Southwest Georgia city of Colquitt. The recently departed Grace Moore would call to let me know she and her husband Hill just spotted a male rubythroat at their feeders. Based on their observations, the first birds would arrive in Colquitt around March 13.
My wife and I usually see our first ruby-throated hummingbird at our Middle Georgia home in Monroe County around March 18, although other local hummingbird enthusiasts have spotted their first birds as early as March 17.
In a typical year, the first rubythroats arrive in South Georgia around March 11. Across much of Middle Georgia, the first hummer of the year appears during the third week in March. Folks living in North Georgia rarely see their first ruby-throated hummingbird until April 1.
Each spring the males are the first to arrive. They are followed 7-10 days later by the first wave of females. However, I have noticed many homeowners throughout the state don’t see their first hummingbirds until April. When they do see one, it is often a female. This does not mean females arrived before the males. It simply indicates both males and females were flying about their corner of the world when they spied their first birds. This has happened to me a number of times.
Often the first birds arrive before people have even hung up their feeders. Countless times, I have homeowners have told me about looking out their window on cool March morning and spotting a hummer hovering at the spot where a feeder hung last year. When this happens, it is hard not to feel like a heel. This is especially true when you ponder the fact that a tiny, tired bird had traveled hundreds of miles from southern Mexico or Central America to reach your backyard only to find that it didn’t have an energy-rich meal waiting for it at a feeder where it fed the previous summer.
If this has happened to you, I am sure you immediately scurried to the cabinet and pulled out a feeder, hurriedly filled it with nectar mixed a batch of nectar, and hung it outside your window. Then you sat back a hoped that the bird would return.
If you want to avoid going through this traumatic experience, I urge you to go ahead and hang out at least one of your hummingbird feeders as soon as possible.
If you have never fed hummingbirds birds before, now is a good time to start. Purchase a feeder that is easy to clean. I also prefer feeders that have perches. Feeders with perches encourage hummingbirds to linger longer and use less energy when feeding.
Fill your feeder either with store-bought or homemade nectar. If you want to make your own hummingbird food, simply mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Bring the water to a boil before adding the sugar. Boil the mixture for 2-3 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into you feeder. Store the remainder in the refrigerator.
I don’t know about you, but I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of hummingbirds. It is a sure sign that our wacky winter is about to end. It also marks the beginning of the 2019 hummingbird season. During this special time of year, we will be treated to the beauty and aerial acrobatics of what is arguably Georgia’s favorite bird.
I hope ruby-throated hummingbirds will arrive early this year. If they do, nobody will be more excited that me.