The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds should start arriving in our area any time now, so it’s time to start thinking about getting the feeders out and filling them up.
The most widespread species of hummingbird in Alberta is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which can be found in most of the province. Then there are the Rufous, Calliope, and Anna’s Hummingbirds which are found in southern Alberta, for example around Calgary and Canmore.
Once a hummingbirds has found a feeder, it will stay extremely loyal to that feeding site. In fact, hummingbirds will return to your house year after year if you keep your feeders filled with fresh nectar.
Here is the very easy and simple recipe for hummingbird nectar:
:: 4 parts water
:: 1 parts white table sugar
Mix the water with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved completely. You can boil the nectar if you like but it’s not necessary, though it dissolves the sugar much faster. If you do boil the nectar, let it cool before filling the feeder. The nectar can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator if you make extra.
Don’t substitute for honey, Splenda, any artificial sweetener, or corn syrup for regular white table sugar. Don’t use red dye either, even food coloring, because it might harm the birds. Instead, buy a feeder with lots of red on it or tie a red bow or ribbon to the feeder which you can remove the ribbon once the hummingbirds find the feeder.
If the feeder is in the shade, change the nectar every five days; if it’s in direct sun, change it every two days. If the nectar looks cloudy or if you see black spots on the inside of the feeder, it’s time to change the nectar.
It’s a good idea to clean your feeder before you refill it every time, washing it with dish soap and water and rinse well. I like to thoroughly disinfect my feeders at least once a month with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Soak your feeder in this solution for up to one hour, and then clean with a toothbrush. Rinse with water and refill the feeder. The key to successful hummingbird attraction is clean feeder and fresh nectar. If you see hummingbirds flying around your feeders but not feeding, it’s a sign that the feeder maybe empty or that the nectar has gone bad. A clean hummingbird feeder is essential!
A good time to hang up your hummingbird feeders in Alberta is at the beginning of May and don’t be in a hurry to take them down in fall. Some people think that leaving feeders up in the fall means that the hummingbirds won’t migrate or will delay migrating. This is false. You can leave your hummingbird feeder up past Labour Day or even longer if you like.
If keeping a feeder seems like like too much work, consider planting some flowers. While hummingbirds are attracted to red, orange, and pink flowers, they like any flowers rich in nectar. Hummingbirds seem to prefer honeysuckle, columbines, hibiscus, salvia, lupines, verbena, trumpet vine, bee balm, Maltese cross, agastache, and fuchsias.
Also, consider planting native flowers, shrubs, and trees. If you live in Alberta, here are some native plants that hummingbirds will enjoy: Fireweed, Bracted Honeysuckle, Red Osier Dogwood, Jewelweed, Snowberry, Meadow Blazingstar, Red Paintbrush, Slender Blue Beardtongue, Wild Bergamot, and Wood Lily. Here is a wonderful list from the Canadian Wildlife Federation on native plants that will attract hummingbirds in Canada.