TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Hummingbird season is in full swing throughout Texas.
The hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world, and the Lone Star State is fortunate enough to have nine common species of them, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. A hummingbird feeder is an easy way to see the species for yourself and bring excitement to your yard.
To witness these tiny avians in your own yard, a store bought hummingbird feeder should do the trick. TPWD says most of the feeders feature artificial red flowers on them since the hummingbirds seem to be attracted to the color red.
Some people have raised concerns about putting out a hummingbird feeder while the avian flu, or bird flu, is going around. Texas got its first confirmed case of bird flu in a mammal from a Carson County skunk in March.
As far as hummingbirds go, experts at Cornell University say there is no need to put the feeders away unless you also have domestic poultry on the same property. U.S. health officials said earlier this spring that the threat to people from the bird flu remains low.
Proper care and maintenance are necessary to make sure the hummingbirds remain unharmed while using your backyard feeders.
The main source of nutrition for hummingbirds is sugar, which they usually get from nectar in flowers, but for the feeder in your yard, experts recommend a mixture of sugar and water.
The normal mixture that is ideal during hot or dry weather is one-fourth a cup of sugar per cup of water, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. The lab said that during cold, rainy or foggy weather it is okay to make the mixture one-third a cup of sugar per cup of water.
TPWD said most bird experts recommend the mixture not be any stronger so it doesn’t cause liver problems for the birds. People should never use anything other than plain table sugar. Honey should never be used in feeders because it poses several bacterial and fungal threats to birds, experts say.
For people who mix small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there is no need to boil the water, but if the mixture is made in larger batches, it should be made with boiling water and refrigerated for later use.
To avoid bacteria, mold and sugar fermenting, the mixture should be changed daily in hot weather. The fill hole for the feeder should be large enough to get a bottlebrush inside and every part should be easy to scrub, experts said.
Bird experts at Cornell University said there is no need to use red food coloring to attract hummingbirds, the coloring may be harmful to hummingbirds. The bright color of flowers is what attracts hummingbirds to them, which is why feeders are often designed with red parts to attract the birds.
Since these birds have the highest energy output per unit of body weight of any animal in the world, they have to feed every 10 to 15 minutes. To save energy, they go into a hibernation-like state at night called torpor.
When choosing a hummingbird feeder, there are a couple of things to consider: feeder size and how easy they are to take apart. Experts said the water should not be left out for more than two to three days, so the best-sized feeders are those that will be emptied every day or two by the hummingbirds.
“Bottle or tube hummingbird feeders can be glass or plastic, often with red plastic flowers and bee guards (little plastic screens that keep insects away from the sugar solution) on the feeding ports. If the bee guards are yellow, they may, ironically, attract bees,” according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.
People who put out hummingbird feeders should be prepared to see the birds fighting among themselves over the feeder or territory, TPWD said. Since hummingbirds can be territorial around feeding sites, it is best to have more feeders than to have only a large one, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.
Hummingbird feeders should not be put in direct sunlight because the sugar solution could spoil faster. Bottle feeders also tend to leak in the sun, but this doesn’t happen in tray feeders.
Another way to feed hummingbirds is to plant a native wildflower garden, which can even be planted in a container garden for those who are low on space, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.