Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Time to Ready Hummingbird and Oriole Feeders
April 17, 2021
By Steve Grinley
I have been noticing more forsythia and dogwoods in bloom around the area. More flowers are blooming in yards as the weather slowly warms. If we get more winds turning southwesterly, we should continue to see more spring migrants and the birds that seek the sweet nectar that flowers provide.
A few hummingbirds have already showed up in southeastern Massachusetts. In fact, a few have made it into New Hampshire and southern and central Maine already! I haven’t seen any North Shore reports yet, but it is getting to be time. 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 maps.
Now is a good time to think about putting out your hummingbird feeders. The peak migration will be in mid May, but the first birds are arriving soon. 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 up! All that while the tiny bird is tapping its tiny toes, waiting.
If you don’t have a feeder, now is the time to get one. Put it up where you can see it, preferably near some flowering plants or shrubs, though by itself it can attract birds as well. 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 and keep any extra stored in the refrigerator.
If you have more than one hummingbird feeder, you may want place the other feeder out of sight of the first one in order to allow more hummingbirds to feed. Hummingbirds are very territorial when they feed. Often, “your” hummingbird will sit nearby and guard “their” feeder. If another hummer comes to feed, they will likely be chased off!
Not far behind the hummingbirds will be the orioles, 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. Orioles also enjoy grape jelly and oranges. Many oriole feeders are designed to hold jelly, orange halves or slices, nectar, or some combination thereof. 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.
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.
Grape jelly, oranges and mealworms are all ways to attract some different birds to your yard this spring and summer. Catbirds, mockingbirds, tanagers, Carolina wrens, thrushes, and even some warblers might make an appearance to partake from this different menu. However, sometimes offering jelly or mealworms attract less desirable larger birds such a starlings. There are many new feeders on the market that help deter larger birds but allow bluebirds, orioles and other smaller birds to feed.
Speaking of bluebirds, some have already begun to nest, but more are still looking for nest boxes, and many will have second or third brood. Now that the weather is improving, it is a good time to put up more houses for them or for any of the other birds that may nest in your yard. In turn, birds will delight you all summer long with their colors and song.