Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: When do hummingbirds come to Florida?

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

 

A:  Well, the arrival of hummingbirds varies slightly from year to year, especially here in Northeast Florida.  We generally say spring but those dates can range anytime in the month of March.  The hummingbirds leave us in September.  But here it is, early March and I saw my first hummingbird.  The red flowers of the red buckeye tree are abundant in my yard and they are already providing nectar for the hummingbirds.  The male hummingbirds arrive first and the females follow about a week later.  Nests are often built near water with two eggs per nest. It takes about 20 days to incubate and about 4 weeks for the babies to mature and leave the nest. Baby hummingbirds are fed insects by parents but once they leave the nest they consume mostly nectar. One hummingbird may require nectar from hundreds of blossoms every day to maintain its body weight. While it is fun to put out hummingbird feeders (I have one in my yard too), we would also recommend planting flowing trees and shrubs to provide natural sources of nectar and nesting sites.  Some good choices are bottlebrush, firecracker, firebush, firespike, salvia, red buckeye, etc.  If you want to make your own nectar then take 1 part white, granulated, cane sugar to 4 parts water. Boil the sugar solution to help dissolve the sugar. Then allow it to cool before filling a feeder. This concentration is about the same as wildflower nectar. Using a sweeter solu­tion, sugar substitutes or honey could be lethal to hummingbirds. It also is not necessary to add red food coloring. The birds will be attracted to the red feeders.  Here in Florida, you may need to change the feeder several times a week as the temperatures increase.  It is important to not allow the solution to ferment.  Clean the feeders with hot water and white vinegar but do not use soap or chlorine bleach.  If you have several hummingbird feeders, then it is best to keep the feeders at least 10 feet apart as these birds can be territorial.

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