Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Hummingbirds and Orioles Arriving Soon
April 08, 2022
By Steve Grinley
I have not received any reports of hummingbirds in the Newburyport area yet, however, hummingbirds have been spotted on Cape Ann and west of Boston according to the hummingbird migration map at www.hummingbirdcentral.com. This map is a cool way to check the arrival of these miniature marvels! As warmer southwest winds return in the weeks ahead, more hummingbirds should be arriving, so now is a good time to ready your hummingbird feeders.
The majority of the hummers arrive in May, but many “early birds” show up in April. So now is the time to get your hummingbird feeders ready and waiting. You certainly don’t want a hummer staring in your window wondering why its feeder is not up yet!
If you often have more than one hummingbird, they are territorial when they feed and one will guard “their” feeder from all others. If that’s the case, two or more feeders placed out of sight of each other will help keep peace in your yard.
One part sugar to three or four parts water is the recommended solution. Be sure to change the nectar every few days to keep it fresh. A clear solution is best as color dyes may be harmful to the birds. Most hummingbird feeders have plenty of red or other bright color to attract the birds. There are also pre-mixed liquids and instant sucrose packets to make the mixing easier.
Hummingbird feeders come in all shapes and sizes. Most are red but many other colors work just fine as well. Since we only have one species of hummingbirds in the northeast the ruby-throated, and they don’t like to share, a smaller feeder is usually fine. If you have a larger feeder, you don’t need to fill it all the way as you will be changing out the nectar frequently. Also choose one that is easier to clean and rinse between fillings.
Hummingbirds make their nest in shrubs and trees high off the ground. They build a small, tightly woven nest out of lichen, plant down, and spider silk. I have even heard they will use the hair off a sleeping dog! They also use cotton or wool fibers that are available commercially in balls or wire feeders.
Orioles are also soon to arrive, so you should begin preparing their feeders as well. These birds are also attracted to backyard feeders with nectar (one part sugar to five or six parts water) and also with grape jelly and oranges. Orioles will sometimes go to suet and sunflower hearts. Some folks also feed mealworms to orioles, especially as the orioles begin to nest, but orioles will also continue to enjoy jelly all summer long. There are feeders that will hold a combination of nectar, jelly (or mealworms) and oranges, with some clever ones are designed to keep larger birds from getting to the goodies.
Our most common oriole is the Baltimore oriole. The male is bright orange and black. The females are a softer orange with some brown in the wings. You may also attract the less common orchard oriole. The male of this species is a darker brick color with black. Females are more yellow than the female Baltimore. Once a pair of orioles continues to visit your feeders regularly, they may bring their offspring to the feeders later in June and July.
Bluebirds, catbirds, mockingbirds, tanagers, Carolina wrens, thrushes, and even some warblers might be attracted to a varied menu. Nectar, jelly, oranges and mealworms are all great ways to attract some different birds to your yard this spring and summer.