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Arrival of 'Yardbirds' is sign of summer

Published July 12. 2014 09:00AM

As much as camping, fishing, picnics and swimming are associated with summer, so too is the arrival of hummingbirds - who cam provide hours of entertaining viewing in one's backyard.

In their own way, hummingbirds are as fascinating to watch as other forms of wildlife. Best of all, they are a lot less destructive than such critters as bear, deer, rabbits and groundhogs.

Attracting hummingbirds is as easy as hanging a feeder especially designed for their long beaks that allow them to lick nectar at an amazingly high speed that has led to the incorrect assumption that they suck nectar. For those who are more ambitious, there are many flowers, shrubs, vines and trees that can be planted that are especially designed to attract hummingbirds.

While there are several colors that are know to attract hummingbirds, red is the dominant color, and most all commercial feeders feature the color. Some like to dress their feeders with red ribbons, and another way to attract hummingbirds to feeders is to place them near a hanging basket with flowers they like.

Sometimes planting too many flowers can be counterproductive if the plan is to attract hummingbirds to a feeder for viewing. This is because they prefer natural nectar over artificial nectar, but be assured they will return to the feeder when natural food sources begin to lose their bloom.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which is the species found in Pennsylvania and throughout the Eastern United States, are territorial and defend flowers and feeders within their area. So, while it is possible for two or more birds to use one feeder, the best way to attract more hummingbirds is to hang several feeders in different locations.

There are several prepared nectars and mixes that are sold commercially, but homemade batches are simple to make and cost a few cents for a season's supply. Simply mix one part sugar to four parts clear water, boil for a few minutes, set aside to cool and then store in a refrigerator.

Under no circumstances, ever use honey, syrup or artificial sweeteners for hummingbird nectar. Honey and syrup ferments and can cause mouth sores, and there is no nutritional value in artificial sweeteners.

Hummingbird feeders need to be cleaned and any remaining nectar emptied and replaced twice a week and even more often in extremely hot weather. Rinse the feeder with hot water, but never use dishwashing detergent, every time the nectar is changed.

If mold forms in the feeder, which will appear as dark spots, it must be thoroughly cleaned with a bottle brush. This should not be a problem if the nectar is changed regularly.

Depending on the size of a feeder, it should never be filled more than half. This allows for hummingbirds to drink the nectar sooner and eliminate the need for any "leftovers" needing to be emptied.

Under no circumstances ever use pesticides near a hummingbird feeder as they feed on bugs and spiders as a needed source of protein. It is also important to provide a source of water - a dish, rather than a large birdbath, will do.

Hummingbirds also need protection from the sun when they rest, so consider hanging a feeder in a shaded area that is out of the wind. Putting some thought into the location of a hummingbird feeder is a sure way to assure hours of viewing these entertaining summertime visitors.

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