A brave and beautiful little Calliope hummingbird visits a Vernon man’s feeder Wednesday, May 5. (Brian Krog photo)

A brave and beautiful little Calliope hummingbird visits a Vernon man’s feeder Wednesday, May 5. (Brian Krog photo)

Hummingbirds back for another Okanagan season

North America’s littlest birds return, and they’re hungry

Karen Siemens

North Okanagan Naturalists Club

The rufous, calliope and black-chinned hummingbirds have returned to their breeding grounds after an arduous journey and are hungry.

The food we make is only a supplement to what they consume from the insects and nectar from flowers. You may see them periodically throughout the day at the feeder but they are noticeably there around sunrise and prior to sunset when they tank up after a night’s rest and tank up again at day’s end.

If you are unable to maintain a clean feeder and change food as often as required from April to August then please rely on the plants in your garden or hanging baskets to attract and feed these beautiful birds.

Feeding hints:

Clean Feeders

• Clean with hot water (no soap).

• Feeder 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 your feeder take it apart and rinse 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 your feeder for one hour in a mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Rinse the parts several times in hot water to remove all traces of bleach.

Feeders

• Glass feeders are the best. If you buy plastic make sure that it is food grade plastic or UV stabilized. This ensures there is no chemical leakage into the food they 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 hummingbird feeders is made by you!

• One part white sugar to four parts water. Boil water in a pot then add sugar, or you may add boiling water from a kettle to sugar and stir until it completely dissolves. Cool to room temperature before filling the feeder. You can store this in the fridge for seven days but warm to room temperature before filling the feeder.

• Never use brown sugar, honey or sugar substitutes as these 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). Do not add scent.

A research study was published in The Royal Society Publishing from the University of California concluded: “Because the quality of sugar water solution is shaped by many factors, the sugar water should be replenished on a regular basis.”

• In warm temperatures (above 27 C) replace every 12-24 hours (every day)

• In cooler temperatures every 48-72 hours (two to three days)

Plants

• If you are xeriscaping you can go to Okanagan Xeriscape and in their filter check ‘Hummingbird” and it will give you a list of hummingbird friendly plants. A few that are popular are bee balm, columbine, foxglove, honeysuckle and Russian sage.

• If you do not have a garden then hanging baskets are very attractive to hummingbirds with flowers like salvia, fuchsia, snapdragons, verbena, nasturtium and the ever-popular petunia.

• Keep your hanging baskets out of reach of predators.

We are spending more time in our gardens these days so let’s sit back and enjoy these colourful and entertaining bundles of joy.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Large number of hummingbirds surprise Shuswap resident

READ MORE: Thank God for gardening in COVID-19


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A hummingbird gives its wings a rare rest while feeding in a North Okanagan garden. (Karen Siemens/North Okanagan Naturalists Club)