By Peggy Doty
University of Illinois Extension Ogle County Extension Educator, Energy & Environmental Stewardship
OREGON, Ill. — Each spring, the ruby-throated hummingbird makes its long flight back to the United States from its wintering habitat in South America.
Those who are now seeing this flashy jewel may notice only males have arrived thus far. Males, the ones with the ruby-colored throat, come back before the females to stake out territories and wait for a potential mate to return for the summer. You cannot make a mistake in identifying this bird, as it is the only species of hummingbird, out of about 15 in the U.S., found in Illinois.
At less than an ounce, the hummingbird is our smallest bird. They can consume twice their body weight daily. This energy allows them to continue the rigorous flight patterns for which they are known.
The hummingbird beats its wings 90 to 200 times per second, creating their humming sound. The nest is the size of a thimble, and is often created with lichen from trees held together by spiderwebs. The two petite eggs laid in the nest are a pearly white.
To capture the eye of your migrant hummingbirds, and keep them around until garden flowers are blooming in mass, you may want to create a feeding station. Make a sugar water solution of four parts water to one part sugar and heat it on the stove until all the sugar is dissolved. Don’t let it come to a boil.
Cool the mixture and put it into a feeder specifically for hummingbirds. There is no need to fill them full, as you need to clean them each week.
The rest of your mixture can be stored in the refrigerator. Keep your containers clean using a mild vinegar and water solution to discourage any mold in the bottles. It is not necessary to use red food coloring, as most feeders have red on them.
Planting lots of warm-colored tubular flowers, such as impatiens, petunias, honey suckle, nasturtiums and columbine is the best way to keep the ruby-throated hummingbirds in your yard. Hummingbirds are also attracted to moving water such as waterfalls, fountains and especially misters.
Nothing is more exciting than the first arrival of such a tiny character to your yard. Plant, feed, water and enjoy the ruby-throated hummingbirds in your yard for the whole summer.
From the June 6-12, 2012, issue