A ray of sunshine amid the hurricane cleanup might include a hummingbird or two buzzing by.
Late August through mid-September is the peak of hummingbird migration, and the tiny birds are trying to feed as much as they can to fatten up for their long trip to Central America or Mexico.
Jane Patterson, president of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society, said hummingbirds will flock to feeders after hurricanes looking for nourishment since the winds will have blown away flowers, their usual source of food, from most plants.
“If you have ever wanted to see a hummingbird, now is the time of year to do it,” she said.
To help homeowners provide a wider buffet of plants for these tiny birds, the Baton Rouge Audubon Society is partnering with LSU Hilltop Arboretum for a presentation on hummingbirds, along with a sale of plants sure to attract them to your yard.
The Zoom presentation will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept.22. The plant sale will begin online after the program, with plant pickup at the arboretum during the week. Register for the program by calling Hilltop (225) 767-6916 or at LSU.edu/hilltop.
“Hummingbirds like tubular flowers of all colors, but they are particularly attracted to red,” Patterson said. “Also, hummingbirds are flycatchers, so they spend a lot of the time gleaning small insects from plants and from the air.”
A few of the hummingbird specialty plants offered will include turk’s cap, coral honeysuckle, salvia and cardinal flower. A complete list is below.
Hummingbirds are prolific eaters, feeding roughly every 15 minutes throughout the day. They generally rest at night, then are ready to feast first thing in the morning.
Patterson also suggested putting out feeders, which essentially imitate flowers.
“The most critical thing for feeding hummingbirds is using a clean feeder," she said. "If the feeder cannot be cleaned, it’s best to discard it and get a new one.”
While the weather is still very hot, you need to change out the sugar water in the feeder every two or three days.
“There is no need to use red dye in the solution, as Mother Nature does not use red dye in her natural nectar, and it may be harmful to the birds,” Patterson explained.
A recipe for hummingbird nectar is one-third to one-quarter cup of sugar stirred into a cup of hot water until dissolved. Let it cool then fill the feeder.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern United States. These fast flyers come to south Louisiana in March after wintering in Central America and almost immediately start building nests. Males come first and are also the first to leave, followed by the females.
“These birds travel through thousands of miles in their migration journey, and even though they are tiny, weighing about two grams (less than a nickel), they can travel about 600 miles in one journey,” Patterson said.
The journey can take 18 hours or longer if they encounter bad weather.
Plants that will be for sale from Hilltop include abutilon “Biltmore Ballgown,” hot pink bottle brush, canna, cardinal flower, fire spike, scarlet sage, pineapple sage, turk’s cap, porterweed, salvia greggi, big batface cuphea, salvia skyrocket pink, David verity cuphea, orange Justica, salvia black and blue, salvia hot lips, Mexican flame vine and purple giant salvia.
This information is presented in conjunction with Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater Baton Rouge, which seeks to advance awareness, understanding and stewardship of the natural environment. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.