Hummingbirds are the Mike Tysons of their bird world.
These oh-so-tiny creatures might look adorable, but they are fierce.
“There is no such thing as a flock of hummingbirds,” said Jane Patterson, president of Baton Rouge Audubon Society. "A flock implies a level of cooperation, and hummingbirds do not cooperate with each other. The only thing a hummingbird hates is another hummingbird."
Want to see hummingbirds in action?
Check out the 19th annual HummingBird Festival on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the National WildBird Refuge in West Feliciana Parish.
Hummingbird expert Marty Floyd and master hummingbird banders will set traps to catch and band the birds (put an identifying band around their leg) while you watch. Attendees can hold the birds and release them back to the wild.
Banding will take place from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the refuge, 15736 Tunica Trace (La. 66), a 400-acre property that includes hiking trails. There will be tents with exhibits and vendors selling hummingbird-attracting plants, birding equipment, feeders and binoculars. Admission is free.
Several species of hummingbirds pass through Louisiana during fall and winter migration.
No doubt the smallest bird in the world has its fans — just not other hummingbirds.
These feisty creatures will fight each other for territory and food, Patterson said. On occasion they will share feeders, but their nature is to defend and dominate.
There are over 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, but only one species — the ruby-throated hummingbird — breeds in Louisiana.
Small but mighty, ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh less than a nickel. They can travel some 2,500 miles during a migration journey, flying nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico to Central America.
Fall migration is getting started, and you might soon catch a glimpse of these flying jewels, along with rufous, black-chinned, calliope, buff-bellied, Anna’s, Allen’s, blue-throated, broad-billed and broad-tailed hummingbirds. Many of these species may not come until winter, extending our hummingbird season year-round.
The flurry of birds passing through diminishes after fall, yet hummingbirds will still be here.
“You may not need as many feeders in the winter, but don’t take them down entirely,” Patterson said.
Due to their popularity, hummingbird hobbyist and avid birder Dennis Demcheck devotes an entire class day to them in his LSU OLLI course. Anytime in Louisiana is a good time to get started watching hummingbirds, he said.
It’s fairly easy to attract them to your yard. If you have flowers, feeders and cover, you’ll have hummingbirds, he said.
Hummingbird feeders can range from ornate glass sculptures to cheap plastic ones.
Experts advise keeping it simple with feeders — the best ones are easy to clean and monitor. Bigger is not better. Ideally, the nectar in the feeder should be changed every day or two to keep it from spoiling. If it smells “yeasty,” it has gone bad. Rancid nectar may sicken birds or end up acting as a deterrent.
Demcheck, who studied nectar in plants, has determined that a sugar to water ratio of 1:3, rather than the customary 1:4, works well.
“The nectar from flowering plants usually has a higher sugar content,” he said.
Also, experts advised, do not use red dye in feeders, which could be harmful to birds. While it’s true hummingbirds are attracted to red, using the color on the exterior of a feeder will work.
Hummingbirds are insect eaters and prefer nectar from plants than our feeders, Demcheck said.
“They are essentially turbo-charged flycatchers,” he said.
Patterson agreed: “You are not going to interrupt a hummingbird’s migration by keeping your feeders up. The feeders are more for us, so it’s easier to see them.”
Get information on attracting hummingbirds to your yard at the “Plants for Birds” seminar Sunday, Sept. 22. The session, sponsored by the Baton Rouge Audubon Society, runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at White Oak Estates and Gardens, 17660 George O’Neal Road. Admission is free, but preregistration is required at eventbrite.com/e/plants-for-birds-event-tickets-70796037855.
And find out what to plant at the Audubon Society’s website, audubon.org/plantsforbirds.