By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

This morning I noticed a hummingbird in the clover that I allow to grow in my backyard. Good thing my yard’s weed-friendly, this poor hummingbird was flying madly about to make a breakfast of the tiny flowers.

This would not be the hummingbird’s preferred diet of nectar from large tubular flowers, but then he/she obviously didn’t get the memo about how spring would be late this year. The best flowers are not out, but the hummingbirds are already passing through, with some headed north from Mexico at the usual time.

If you pay attention to wildlife in your own sphere, you’ve likely noticed how climate change is stressing birds and critters as they cope with drought, late springs, extra cold winters, sizzling summers and Biblical downpours. These days the early bird may be too prompt to get the worm; the ground may still be frozen.

In Austin, hummingbirds will be arriving in March. If you want to help them on their migration in this drier, colder year, you could put out a feeder with sugar water.

I wanted to do this correctly, so I turned to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the best advice. Here’s a condensed version of their tips. Find more at their webpage.

  • First off, avoid the red-dyed premixed hummingbird syrups at nurseries and home improvement centers. Yes, the color attracts the hummingbirds, but these products presume that red dye is harmless, and that’s unproven.
  • Don’t use honey in your feeder, because it creates an environment that invites bacteria and fungus.
  • Use good old table sugar mixed with water at a ratio of about 1/4 of a cup of sugar per 1 cup of water, or 1/3 of a cup of sugar to 1 cup of water during more challenging cold or rainy times. If you want to make a big batch, boil the water first, mix it up with the sugar and store it in the fridge.
  • Don’t leave hummingbird water out for more than a few days, and change it daily during really hot weather.

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