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Print

Hummingbirds entertain while they fuel up

July 18, 2013 at 09:12 PM

The State Journal-Register






Compared to many pastimes, spending $5 a week to keep the hummingbird feeders full seems pretty cheap.

That’s especially true when you compare that with a round of golf or a movie at your favorite multiplex.

But like gas, food and everything else, the price of keeping hummingbirds happy keeps going up, especially as summer passes its peak and migration looms on the calendar.

“Right now they are drinking 10 or 12 cups of nectar a day,” said Elaine Turley of Carlinville.

Turley lives south of town, not far from Beaver Dam State Park. Woods surround her home, and her gardens are full of nectar-producing flowers and bushes to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Four hummingbird feeders hang just outside a window by the front door for easy viewing.

It takes five pounds of sugar a week to make enough nectar, costing about $5.

But in no time at all, this year’s young birds will effectively double the number at Turley’s feeders.

“In a few weeks, if it is like other years, I will be buying about 10 pounds of sugar a week, and probably have 40-50 birds at the feeders,” she said.

By the end of July, ruby-throated hummingbirds already are preparing for a long migration to the southern United States and Mexico.
Males leave first, as early as the end of July, with females and juveniles following by mid-September.

A few stragglers hang around after that, and occasionally a rare hummingbird or species well out of its range will arrive at an Illinois feeder as late as November.

Turley said feeding hummingbirds is a great, inexpensive hobby, so long as you can keep up with the demand for food.

Last week, in preparation for a few days out of town, she was training a neighbor to take over filling the feeders.

Here are a few of Turley’s hummingbird feeding tips:

Nectar formula

“Four-to-one,” is the ratio to remember.

Blend one cup of water with ¼ cup of sugar, dissolving the sugar in boiling water. Cool before using.

“You can make as much as you want and keep it in the refrigerator,” Turley said.

Change nectar regularly

Turley said she fills hers to the top, and the nectar lasts about two days. Beyond that, it starts to get cloudy. She recommends hanging feeders in shady locations out of the sun.

Arrival

Turley said she usually pegs the ruby-throated hummingbird’s arrival to Earth Day, April 22.

Males return to her feeders first, followed later by females, she said.

Nests

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird to breed east of the Mississippi River.

“I’ve never found a nest,” Turley said of the tiny hummingbird nests that are no bigger than a walnut.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ruby-throated hummingbirds normally place their nests on the branch of a tree.

Feeder placement

Conventional wisdom says feeders should be placed out of the line-of-sight of each other so one male cannot defend all feeders and drive other birds away.

While there were some chirps and squabbles at Turley’s feeders, especially at those moments when large numbers of birds converged, it did not appear that one bird was trying to control the feeding source.

“Right now they seem satisfied with four feeders but I am thinking of buying another,” she said.

Hummingbird festival planned for Sunday

A new location has been added to this season’s hummingbird banding sessions led by retired ornithologist Vern Kleen.

A hummingbird festival will be held at Beaver Dam State Park south of Carlinville from 1 – 4 p.m. Sunday.

The event will be held in the concession area and parking is available.

To get there, go south on the Carlinville-Shipman Road for seven miles.

Hummingbird adoptions will be available for a $5 donation to the Lincoln Land Association of Bird Banders.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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