Orange-hued hummingbirds return

By Anne Schmauss
For The Taos News
Posted 7/25/18

Rufous hummingbirds are back! These orange-colored, bossy hummingbirds migrate north through California in the spring to their nesting grounds in the Pacific Northwest up to …

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Orange-hued hummingbirds return

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Rufous hummingbirds are back! These orange-colored, bossy hummingbirds migrate north through California in the spring to their nesting grounds in the Pacific Northwest up to Alaska.

Lucky for us, they migrate south back to Mexico by following the flower highway of the Rocky Mountains. This brings them through New Mexico starting now through early fall. The male rufous heads south after their very limited role in the nesting process is over.

After their young have fledged, the females start their southward journey, and once the babies are robust enough to make the trip, they follow.

For us, that means a steady stream of rufous hummers swinging through our state for the rest of the summer. Each stays only a day or two at your feeder before moving on only to be replaced by another rufous migrant

If their aggressive ways are keeping your nesting broad-tailed and/or black-chinned hummingbirds away from your feeders, try this trick to keep everyone happy. Add an extra feeder out of sight of your current feeder. Often, your rufous just can't guard all of your feeders, especially if it can't see them all from the same perch.

Other hummingbird tips:

• Mid-July marks the beginning of peak time for hummingbird activity in New Mexico. If your hummers disappeared for a while in June and you took your feeders down, now is the time to put them back up. Not only do we see migrating rufous but also nesting broad-tailed and black-chinned hummingbirds and their young visiting feeders. You're likely to have hummingbird activity into October.

• Fresh nectar is the key to consistent hummingbird activity. Change nectar and clean your feeders at least twice a week whether you are seeing hummingbirds or not. This should bring more hummer activity to your feeder.

• Make your nectar with 4 parts boiled water to 1 part white table sugar. Make an extra batch and keep it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

• Add an ant trap to your feeder to keep ants out. Ant traps are a simple moat of water through which ants cannot swim. Often hummingbirds drink from the ant traps, so don't add anything but water to the moat.

• Watch for the tiny calliope hummingbird right now. They are the smallest bird in North America. The male is the only hummingbird to have separate streaks of purple iridescence on its throat. Like the rufous, they don't nest in our area but migrate through midsummer through early fall.

• If your feeder leaks or drips or has lots of bees bothering it, try a saucer-style feeder. Bees don't like to crawl down the short tunnel to reach the nectar, and holes at the top of the feeder make leaks rare.

• Hummingbirds are also enjoying nectar from flowers and eating plenty of insects. Your feeder is a supplement to their diet and will not cause dependency or a pause in migration.

Anne Schmauss is the co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe, and she loves to hear your bird stories. She is the author of "For the Birds: A Month by Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard and Birdhouses of the World."

This column first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News. The Spanish version of this stroy is on Page C4.

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