Thursday, August 11, 2016

Watching Hummingbirds

Are you one of the many fans of hummingbirds?  Do you have a feeder near a window at your home?
Hummingbirds are probably some of the most watched birds, according to Hummingbirds of Texas.

The number one hummer we see is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  In the Texas Parks andWildlife Quick Reference to Hummingbirds, the Ruby-throated is described as the only commonly seen hummer in the eastern half of Texas and in the Eastern U. S.

Male Ruby-throated, photographed at Hazel Bazemore by Jesus Moreno
In recent years there have been reports of sightings of Black-chinned Hummingbirds in north Texas. In the Sibley Guide to Birds, the two "species are very similar in all plumages. Males are distinguished by throat color but identification of females requires very close study..." Viewing the throat color is dependent on how light is reflected on the bird, but a behavior check may help distinguish the two, as Sibley states that the Black-chinned pumps its tail frequently when hovering. If you have a photo of a Black-chinned Hummingbird taken in Grayson County, we invite you to post it on the Friends Facebook Page.

Most recently, a volunteer at Hagerman NWR reported a Rufous Hummingbird at her home feeder in western Grayson County. The Rufous is normally a west Texas migrant and seen occasionally on the Texas Gulf Coast.  According to TPWD, the Rufous is the only hummingbird with a rufous (rusty, reddish-brown) back.

Rufous Hummingbird at left, by Sue Abernathy
In the Native Plant and Pollinator Garden adjacent to the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife  Refuge, hummingibrds are attracted to the red blossoms of Turk's Cap and to the nectar feeders.  Earlier in the season they were feeding at the coral honeysuckle in the Butterfly Garden.  In past presentations at the Refuge, Mark Klym has stated that given a choice of a nectar feeder or a nectar feeder among a garden of blooms attractive to birds, the humming birds is likely to choose the latter.  The home garden can be designed to provide food, water and shelter for theses birds, keeping mind that red is definitely a key in attracting them.  However, coloring the nectar in your feeder is now a no-no as dyes may be harmful to the birds.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding  at Turk's Cap, at HNWR, by Dick Malnory
The recommended ratio for making nectar is one part sugar to four parts water. Feeders should be
cleaned every two - three days in this hot weather and refilled.  Hummers also feed on small insects. It is a myth that the presence of feeders will delay or interfere with the fall migration of the hummingbirds.

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