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HUMMERS ARE ARRIVING EARLY THIS YEAR

       In my last blog, I predicted that, in spite of our warm winter weather, ruby-throated hummingbirds would probably not arrive early this year.  Boy was I ever wrong.    Since the blog was posted, at least four hummers have been spotted in Monroe County.  The first bird arrived at a home near Juliette March 9.  Two birds were reported arriving three days later on March 12.  To top it all off, today (March 14) I spotted a male ruby-throated hummingbird visiting a feeder hanging in front of my office.  All four sightings are earlier than any I am personally aware of during the past 40+ years.  Personally, until today the earliest I have ever seen my first rubythroat of the year is March 18.

       Please let me know when you spot your first rubythroat.  I cannot believe folks in this Middle Georgia County are spotting   hummingbirds earlier than anybody else in the state.

BEE BALM IS A GREAT NATIVE HUMMINGBIRD NECTAR PLANT

    Soon hummingbirds will be en route to Georgia.  As such, there is no better time than now to begin planning what to plant for the feathered dynamos that bring us so much please.  With that in mind, I would like to suggest that you consider planting bee balm.

        Bee balm (Monarda didyma), also known as Oswego tea) is a native perennial.  This hummingbird favorite grows anywhere from one to five feet tall.  It grows best in moist to well drained soil types.  The plant blooms best when grown in sites that vary from partial shade to full sun.  Bee balm blooms from March to May.

CHANGING WATER IN ANT MOTES HELPS THWART THE SPREAD OF WEST NILE VIRUS

       The recent news of two cases of West Nile virus being diagnosed in the Georgia has heightened the fear that this dreaded disease might show up in our neighborhoods.

       Public health officials have advised that, since the disease is spread by mosquitoes, we can all help thwart the disease is by reducing the places where mosquitoes lay their eggs. One of the easiest ways for homeowners to accomplish this is by ensure water is does not collecting in open containers.  When folks police their yards for buckets and other containers that collect water, they often overlook a potential place of mosquitoes to lay their eggs that is hiding in plain sight.  What I am referring to are ant motes.     

       For years, ant motes have been used to prevent ants from converging on hummingbird feeders.  In case you are not familiar with an ant mote, it looks much like the plastic lid of an aerosol can.  A wire runs through the center of the bottom of the mote.  It is hung, with the open end of the mote facing up, between a feeder and a shepherds hook or other support.  Once in place it is filled with water.  It works because ants trying to reach a feeder will not swim across the water in the mote. The downside of this simple device is it can also serve as a great place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs.  Consequently, if we want to protect our hummingbird feeders from ants and not encourage mosquitoes that might potentially carry West Nile virus, all we have to do is to empty the water in a mote every two to three days.  This will prevent mosquito larvae swimming about in an ant mote from developing into adult mosquitoes.

HOW TO CARE FOR STUNNED HUMMINGBIRDS

         Hummingbirds are taking center stage in backyards across the state.  More than likely you are seeing more hummingbirds swirling around your feeders right now than at any other time this year.  While this is impressive, we all know that the numbers of birds visiting our feeder will increase before they finally depart for their winter quarters.

       Whenever lots of hummingbirds are scuffling with one another to feed at your feeders, the chance of the birds striking a window dramatically increases.  Here are a few tips that will help you deal with a bird that flies into a window 

       If the hapless bird lands in a spot where it will not become covered with ants, is in the shade, or will not be grabbed by a cat or other predator, leave it alone.  If it is note severely injured it will eventually fly away.

       On the other hand, if you feel the bird needs to be moved to a safe location, gently pick it up, and place it in a paper bag or shoebox.  If you place it in a bag, loosely fold over the top of the bag.  This will permit air to circulate into the bag and keep the bird from prematurely flying out of the bag once it recovers.

       If you place the hummingbird in a shoebox, poke several air holes in box.

       Place the bag in a dark, quiet location and wait.  If the bird is only stunned, in about an hour or two, check on its condition.  Once it revives and seems alert, take it outside, place it on the palm of your hand, and let it fly away.  Do not be surprised if the bird does not immediately take to the air.  I have seen hummers wait a few minutes before finally taking flight.

       On the other hand, if the bird seems alert but has injured a wing or its bill, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.                                    

       When a hummingbird doesn’t show any signs of life, it is probably dead.

BACKYARD SECRET – PEOPLE DID NOT ALWAYS BELIEVE HUMMINGBIRDS MIGRATED

Nowadays it is difficult to believe that folks did not always believe ruby-throated hummingbirds migrated.  However, unbelievably, it would be safe to say that during the 1600s it was indeed the prevailing belief among the early colonists.

       There is no better proof of this than the Pennsylvania Cylopedia published in 1651.  This reference book states the lives of hummingbirds ended when the flowers stopped blooming in the fall.  Faced with a lack of food, hummingbirds would then simply thrust the sharp bills into the trunks of trees.  Here they would remain motionless throughout the entire winter.  Once winter eased its frigid grip on the land and the rejuvenating rains of spring drenched the land, hummingbirds would miraculously spring back to life and fly away. 

 

       Whenever I read such a bizarre story, I cannot help but wonder how such a belief surfaced.  Obviously, no one has even seen a hummingbird overwintering with its bill stuck in a tree.

CAN HUMMINGBIRDS FLY AGAINST STRONG WINDS?

For days, our attention has been focused on Hurricane Irma and its unbelievably strong winds.  During the last few days as we have been awaiting the arrival of this terrible storm, the wind has increased significantly.  This has made flying difficult for the hummingbirds gorging themselves at our feeders.  Although wind gusts have already exceeded 20 mph, they will dramatically increase as the storm races toward Georgia.  With that in mind, have you ever wondered how strong the wind has to be to ground these tiny aerialists?  The answer may surprise you. 

       Obviously, they cannot fly in hurricane-force winds.  The truth of the matter is when biologist placed hummingbirds in a wind tunnel; they found they could not sustain flight against headwinds that exceed 27 mph.  When the wind soars above this threshold, hummingbirds seek the cover provided by the thick foliage of a shrub or tree.

HOW LONG WILL RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS BE WITH US?

       Throughout most portions of the state, the numbers of ruby-throated hummingbirds visiting backyard feeders peaked a couple of weeks ago.  Although most of us are still hosting lots of hummers, it is obvious that these beautiful birds will not be with us much longer.  That begs the question, “When will the last of the rubythroats abandon our feeders?”  Here is the answer.

       We will continue to see good numbers of rubythroats for the next few weeks. The vast majority of these birds will be adult females and immature males and females. 

       By the end of the month, many folks will have seen their last ruby-throated hummingbird of the year.  However, some will still be seen during the month of October. RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS AT FEEDER - Blog - 1 Sept 2017

       If you see a hummingbird from November through the end of February, chances are it will not be a rubythroat.

       A very small number of ruby-throated hummingbirds do winter in the Peach state each year, but they are very uncommon.  In fact, the most common hummingbird seen during the winter in Georgia is the rufous hummingbird.

       With that in mind, keep at least of your feeders stocked with food throughout the year.  Late migrants will benefit from a readily available source of food as they wing their way south ahead of winter.  In addition, your feeders might be used by a wintering rubythroat or even attract one of the western hummingbirds that visit our state in winter.