Friday, March 8, 2013

Rufous Hummingbirds are Arriving

Some of the first signs of spring are starting to appear in the Pacific Northwest.  Daffodils and crocus are starting to bloom and our native red-flowering currant (ribes sanguineum) is starting to bloom in some of the warmer more sheltered areas.

Red-flowering Currant - Ribes Sanguineum
Ribes sanguineum is one of  our most brilliant and beautiful blooming shrubs and an added bonus is that their bloom time is closely synchronized with the return of our spring and summer visitor, the gorgeous rufous hummingbird.

Male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
Photo courtesy of  Velo Steve on Flickr  - creative commons license

An interesting website where you can follow the progress of their migration is called Field Notes - the Journey North

If you want to attract these gorgeous little birds as the migrate and perhaps encourage them to stay around for the summer, consider planting a few red-flowering currant or other ribes genus plants.  They are often available in nurseries.

  Ribes is the genus of both currants and gooseberries.  Currants and gooseberries are usually early spring bloomers and many have  attractive flowers and some also have delicious edible fruit after the flowers fade away.  For more information, here is an article about growing Spring Blooming Ribes

Of course the currants and gooseberries are also enjoyed by our year-round resident Anna's hummingbird, too.

Male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna )                      
Photo credit: Tyler Karaszewski on Flickr - Creative Commons License

Of course another way to attract hummingbirds is with hummingbird feeders.  Use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and boil for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar.  Do NOT use brown sugar, honey or artificial sweeteners.  Red food coloring in NOT necessary if the feeder itself has a red color.  Food coloring be harmful.  Be sure to throw away any remaining nectar every few days, clean the feeders and refill with fresh nectar.  A week's supply of nectar can be made up and refrigerated for a week.  Please don't hang feeders or plant flowers and shrubs that attract hummingbirds within the reach of cats.   Cats can, and do catch and kill many hummingbirds each year.

This is my favorite hummingbird feeder. The glass is fairly easy to clean and can be run through the dishwasher or boiled to sterilize. The hummingbirds seem to enjoy the perches by each feeding station because they certainly use them.  Again the red food coloring shown in the photo is NOT NECESSARY.  I never use red food coloring and the hummingbirds find and use my feeders just fine.