Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Hummingbirds and Orioles are Arriving!
April 21, 2023
By Steve Grinley
Flowers and trees are blossoming as the weather slowly warms. As winds turn southwesterly, we should see more of those spring birds that seek the sweet nectar that flowers provide – hummingbirds and orioles.
Now is the time to put out your hummingbird feeders. The peak migration will be in mid May, but the first birds are arriving. Hummingbirds have already arrived in Amesbury and a few have made it into New Hampshire! I often hear stories about hummers that arrive early at the spot where “their” feeder use to be, only to find that it is not up yet. The homeowner is usually embarrassed, scrambles to find the feeder, clean it out, make the nectar, fill the feeder, and, then, put it out! All that while the tiny bird is tapping its tiny toes, waiting.
If you don’t have a hummingbird feeder, now is the time to procure one. Put it up where you can see it, preferably near some flowering plants or shrubs, though an isolated feeder can attract hummers as well. Store bought clear nectar is best, with no additives. Do not use red nectar, as that can be harmful to the birds – clear nectar is best. Most feeders have enough red color to attract the birds.
You can also make your own nectar with one part sugar to three or four parts water. Be sure to change the nectar every few days to keep it fresh and keep any extra stored in the refrigerator.
Hummingbirds are very territorial when they feed. If you have more than one hummingbird feeder, place another feeder out of sight of the first one in order to allow more hummingbirds to feed. Often, “your” hummingbird will sit nearby and guard “their” feeder (we call them the yard boss.) If another hummer comes to feed, they will likely be chased off!
If you would like to track the ruby-throated hummingbird arrivals in the eastern United States, including New England, you can go to www.hummingbirdcentral.com and click on the map.
A Baltimore oriole has been spotted in Topsfield and an orchard oriole or two have been on Plum Island this past week, 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) as they enjoy the nectar provided by flowering apple, cherry and other fruit trees upon their return. Orioles particularly enjoy grape jelly and oranges, especially as the season goes on.
Many oriole feeders are designed to hold jelly, orange halves or slices, nectar, or some combination thereof. People sometimes feed mealworms to orioles, especially as the orioles begin to nest, but orioles will also continue to enjoy jelly all summer long.
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. Both species have very musical songs that will
Once a pair of orioles continues to visit your feeders regularly, they may bring their offspring to the feeders later in June and July! Other summer birds may also enjoy your offering of jelly including catbirds, mockingbirds, house finches, and beautiful scarlet tanagers!