My husband LOVES hummingbirds. He has multiple feeders, he makes up gallons of the preferred liquid hummingbird food, and then he wants (hopefully) to just enjoys seeing these teeny tiny, amazing birds drop by our yard.
Sometimes they do, and sometimes, not so much.
And when I told him that the folks at Warner Nature Center are true experts on hummingbirds, he wanted me to ask them a few things that he had been wondering about.
So, I posed a few hummingbird questions to Vera Roberts and her Warner Park Nature Center staff and asked them to add some of their other most frequently asked questions about hummingbirds.
And all of a sudden, we have an exhaustive Hummingbird Lovers Guide – just in time for the park’s annual free Hummingbird Festival on Aug. 27.
Here are the questions, and yes, the answers too!
- When is the best time to put out hummingbird feeders?
August and September are the best time in Middle Tennessee to see hummingbirds at your feeders because the adults and young of the year are migrating through Tennessee on their way to Central America for the winter.
- Should I have a hummingbird feeder out year-round?
Yes! While August and September are peak numbers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can be found in Middle Tennessee from March through October. Some hummingbirds like the Rufous Hummingbird actually spend the winter here in Tennessee.
- Can you put hummingbird feeders in direct sun, or do they need to be in the shade?
The feeders can be in the shade or sun and need to be cleaned frequently. But if they are in the sun, they may need to be cleaned and refilled more often.
- What is the best recipe for hummingbird feeders?
We prefer 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. You can use warm tap water to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Please do NOT use red dye as it may be harmful to hummingbirds.
- Other than sugar water, what else can I do to attract hummingbirds?
Plant native plants. While hummingbirds love nectar, insects like mosquitoes, spiders, and gnats are their primary source of food and native plants support more insects. Some of our favorites are coral honeysuckle and common milkweed.
- Is it OK to place hummingbird feeders near wild bird feeders?
Yes, they can be in the same area, but we prefer to separate them by several feet to give them their own space.
- · How big are hummingbirds?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are among the tiniest birds in the world. They weigh just one-eighth of an ounce, less than a penny.
- Who is bigger, the male or female?
Males are smaller than females and have the red throat (called gorget feathers). On average males weigh 3.0 grams and females weigh 3.5 grams. Juvenile or hatch-year birds look very similar to adult females with emerald green backs and white-tipped tails.
- Which species of hummingbirds do we usually see in Middle Tennessee?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only species of hummingbirds that nest east of the Mississippi and have the largest breeding range of any North American hummingbird.
- Can they really fly upside-down?
Yes. Hummingbirds can fly backwards, upside-down, and sideways. And Ruby-throated Hummingbirds beat their wings at 53 beats per second.
- Why is it important to conserve hummingbirds?
Like other bird species, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are an important pollinator and can deposit 10 times as much pollen as honeybees.
- Do hummingbirds really return to the same location each year?
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can remember the exact location of safe habitats with flower gardens and feeder stations from year to year.
- Do hummingbirds really fly across the Gulf of Mexico during their migration?
Yes, many fly across the Gulf especially during spring migration and many also follow a coastal (circum-Gulf) route especially during fall migration.
- Where do they spend the winter?
Most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America and Mexico. They breed in the eastern U.S. and southern Canada.
- How can they possibly fly that far?
They often double their body mass by fattening up on insects and nectar. This fat reserve is the energy needed to make the long journey.
Thanks to Vera Roberts and Robin Cook for your help on this.
The Hummingbird Festival is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Warner Park Nature Center. This FREE event features fun and educational activities for people of all ages, including hummingbird banding demonstrations, live hummingbird observation stations, hummingbird bingo and scavenger hunts, face painting, arts and crafts, and tips on attracting hummingbirds.
Activity stations will also be led by partners from Friends of Warner Parks, the Bellevue Public Library, Davidson County Master Gardeners, and University School of Nashville. The Wood Thrush Shop will be on site selling hummingbird feeders and other hummingbird merchandise and there will be food trucks selling food and drink.
At 11 a.m. during the Hummingbird Celebration, guest presenters Amy and Carl Wilms and Dr. Lina Rifai will be leading “The Wonders of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird”, an interactive program during which the presenters will share their personal experiences researching, understanding, and protecting these “gems on wings.”
There are also several hummingbird banding sessions scheduled for the Program Shelter at Warner Park Nature Center:
Aug 20 - 2-4 p.m.
Aug. 24 - 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Aug. 27 - 8-10 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. (Hummingbird Celebration)
Aug. 31 - 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Sept. 3 - 8-10 a.m.
Warner Park Nature Center is an environmental education facility owned and operated by Nashville Metro Parks. Located at 7311 Highway 100 in Edwin Warner Park, the nature center is free and open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information, go to wpnc.nashville.gov, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (615) 862-8555.