August: The time of Hummingbirds in the yard

By Dave Hanks

Most folks like hummingbirds, even if they are not excited about other bird species. We get many questions about them. Questions about nests, questions about feeding, questions about the young – these are some of the common inquiries. Well, if you enjoy them, now is the time to give them your attention! They may not have been around much so far, except a few during spring migration, but it’s August and our yard comes alive with these small, cantankerous individuals. A feeder has several feeding stations but that doesn’t matter. A dominant bird will not allow others to feed. High-pitched squeals are emitted as others are driven off. The Rufous is the most aggressive. Besides the Rufous, the Black-Chinned, the Broad-Tailed, and the Calliope are found in Idaho.

The Broad-Tailed is the western version of the east’s Ruby-Throated. The Black-Chinned looks very dark on its chin and upper chest. The Calliope is the smallest and has streaking on its throat and the Rufous is very orangey all over. Light must reflect off the bird, or they all will appear dark. Males are easy to identify, but females can be tricky. For them, careful study of a field guide may be necessary.

You can purchase a mix to put in your feeder, but it’s cheaper and just as effective to make your own. Sugar and water mixed at a ratio of one part sugar to four parts water works extremely well. This is sweeter than our oriole mix but the orioles like the extra sweetness, too. It is not necessary or advisable to add any food coloring. They will readily come to the uncolored mix. The planting of flowers, like Scarlet Gilia or other tubular shaped ones, will attract these birds to your home. Their extremely long beak and equally long tongue allows them access to the nectar deep inside the bud. Nests are tiny, and two eggs, the size of “jelly-beans”, are laid. The young when fledged all look like females. All species hover when feeding and can fly backwards. Their rapid wing beats produce a humming sound.

For hummingbird lovers, living in the west is best. The eastern USA has only one species and the eastern hemisphere has none. South America is the true hummingbird capital of the world with innumerable kinds.

(An immature Rufous at the feeder)