Hummingbirds have been revered for their beauty, courage and fierceness throughout history. Aztec warriors believed they would be reincarnated into hummingbirds upon their death.
Today, we still marvel at how such a small bird can migrate thousands of miles annually. Their feats of aerial acrobatics are unmatched in the bird world. They are the only birds that can stop in flight and hover. They are aggressive and territorial. They will fight to protect access to feeders and nectar plants. Although small in size they have very dominate personalities.
In Palo Pinto County we have a wonderful opportunity to observe these birds firsthand. Palo Pinto County is the summer home to two major species of hummingbirds – the Black-chinned and Ruby-throat. These birds are very similar in size and coloring. The difference is most noticeable in adult males. Adult males of both species have black heads with a white neck band but they differ in throat color. Black-chinned birds have a purple throat and the Ruby-throats have a red throat.
Females and young adults are mostly green.
Both bird types are readily seen at backyard feeders. Hummingbirds begin their migration from Central America and Mexico in early spring. Adult males start to arrive in Palo Pinto County in mid- to late-March. By mid-April, most hummingbirds that will spend the summer season here have arrived. Breeding season is in full swing by May. They start their return trip south in September. The first to head south are the adult males. Most hummingbirds will be gone by late October. The last to leave are the young birds, some having been born in late summer.
Although hummingbirds are insectivores they need a constant energy source to power their flight and hunt for food. This need for nectar provides us the opportunity to see them up close. The two ways to encourage hummingbirds to visit are to plant showy, flowering plants that hummingbirds enjoy and to provide sugar water feeders.
Flowering plants are the key to get them to stop by and stay awhile. Although hummingbirds are mainly attracted to red flowers, they will take nectar from many types of flowering plants.
Good plant choices for our area Red Turk’s Cap, Salvia greggi (Autumn Sage) and Coral Honeysuckle.
Sugar water feeders will bring hummingbirds into easy view. They are easy to set up and maintain. The sugar to water ratio is 1:4. There is no need for red food color or to boil the water. Hot tap water and regular sugar is all that is needed. The sugar water can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
For best viewing results put out two or more feeders spaced at least 30 feet apart. Feeders with perches seem to be a favorite. Place them so trees are close by. Keep the feeders filled and clean. No soap and replace the unused sugar water every three days in the summer.
Know that the feeders will not keep the hummingbirds from migrating.
The 2017 hummingbird season is almost over. Plan ahead for next year and enjoy a wonderful season of hummingbird viewing.
For more informaiton about Palo Pinto County Master Gardeners, go to www.palopinto.agrilife.org or call 940-659-1228.