Juvenile male calliope. (Photo submitted: Karen Siemens)

Juvenile male calliope. (Photo submitted: Karen Siemens)

Help the hummingbirds this spring

Check out these helpful hummingbird hints from the North Okanagan Naturalists Club

Karen Siemens

North Okanagan Naturalists Club

Hummingbirds will start to arrive in the Okanagan this month.

They have used their fat reserves to reach their breeding grounds and are hungry. By putting out feeders, you are providing a supplementary food source and need to make sure you are doing it correctly so it helps the birds, doesn’t harm them.

If you are not able to consistently feed the birds from April through August, then rely on your plants to feed them.

Keep your feeders clean, make our own food and supply plants that they love.

Hummingbird feeding hints:

• Clean feeders — clean with hot water (no soap). Feeders should be completely dismantled and feeding ports taken apart. Use a bottle brush for inverted feeders and pipe cleaners for the small holes. Every time you refill the feeder, take it apart and rinse it with hot water. Twice a week use the brush and pipe cleaners to ensure it’s clean. Black mould is a death sentence to hummingbirds. If there is any sign of it, soak the feeder for one hour in a mixture of 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Rinse the parts several times in hot water to remove all traces of the bleach. Glass feeders are the best. If you buy plastic make sure it is food grade plastic or UV stabilized plastic. That will ensures there is no chemical leakage into the food the birds eat. Cheap plastic disintegrates and will contaminate the food. Whether you use inverted feeders or the basin style, make sure that the feeder can be completely dismantled for cleaning.

• Food—the best food for humming birds is made by you. Here’s a recipe: One part white sugar to four parts water. Boil water in a pot then add the sugar, or you may add boiling water from a kettle to sugar, stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Cool to room temperature before filling feeder. You can store this in the fridge for seven days. Never use brown sugar, honey or sugar substitutes as they contain components that will harm the birds. Do not use red dye (the red on the feeder is all that is needed to attract them) and do not add scent. If the food is cloudy it is bad, clean the feeder and refill. Even though it may not look like it, the food can go bad quickly in hot weather. To avoid mould, change your food frequently and err on the side of caution. If the temperature is be 25 C or less, change the food every four days. If it is between 25 C and 30 C, change the food every two days, and if it’s over 30 C, replace it every day. Only fill the feeder with what is being used between cleanings.

• Plants—you may already have perennial hummingbird plants in your garden like bee balm, bleeding hearts, columbine, foxglove, honeysuckle, joe pye plant and Russian sage to name a few, but you can accent those plants with annuals in containers or hanging baskets, such as be salvia, fuchsia, snapdragons, verbena, zinnia and the old favourite petunias. Keep your hanging baskets beyond the reach of predators.

For more information on hummingbirds go to rpbo.org/hummingbirds.php Rocky Point Bird Observatory located in Victoria, BC.

Related: Vernon is home to hummingbirds

Related: Club monitors hummingbirds

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