RETURN OF THE HUMMINGBIRDS TO COLORADO
-Team Murphy Realty Land Marketing Guide
In the springtime many people anxiously await the return of the entertaining little hummers. We have had reports of early arrivals already but most won’t arrive until June. Colorado has about ten species that travel thru our state but we basically have four species that spend much time here. We have the Broad-tail, Calliope, Black Chinned and the mean little Rufous.
Most of these little birds spend the winters in Mexico and Central America and return to spend the summers in the US and Canada. Some scientist think some Rufous are beginning to spend the winter in the southeast section of the US due to dry conditions in Mexico. Now the Rufous travels up the west coast in the springtime to Washington and into British Columbia and it comes into Colorado in July and August on its way south for the winter. It is absolutely mind-boggling the distance these tiny little birds travel in their life time.
One great myth about the hummingbird is that they hitch rides on other migrating birds, primarily Canadian Geese. Scientist say there is absolutely no truth to this myth. The truth is these little creatures have a tremendous capacity to travel long distances. The Ruby-throat hummingbird flies non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico in the spring and fall on its migration path.
Hummingbirds are small, the largest we see in Colorado is the Blue-throated which will weigh 8.4g and the smallest is the Calliope weighing 2.5g. Although small and normally peaceful they are territorial and will protect their territory with the heart of a Eagle. This makes for some interesting bird watching when the Rufous arrives in mid-summer.
Hummers are thought to live three to four years but one Broad-tail female captured and banded in Colorado in 1976 was captured once more in Colorado in 1987 making her at least 12 years old. Most hummers have a wing beat of 53 times per second and one Blue-throated had a heart beat of 1260 times per minute when checked. With all this energy expended these little fellows eat up to five times their body weight every day.
Feeding Hummingbirds is one of the most popular activities of the summer season. If you do it according to the DOW instructions it can be a pretty intensive assignment. It takes a 4 to 1 ratio of water to sugar and the feeders should be cleaned once a week. Use only white granulated sugar and food coloring is not necessary with today’s bright red feeders. Never use honey or artificial sweeteners because honey can cause fatal infections in hummingbirds.
The male birds will arrive about three before the females. The males are looking for a special territory so as to better attract a female on their arrival. The males sometimes arrive before flowers are in bloom so its not a bad idea to have a feeder or two out for these early birds. Many of us have heard that you should bring your feeders in on Labor Day to encourage the hummers to get on their way before winter sets in. Hummingbirds migrate in response to hormonal changes which are triggered by decreasing sunlight. Nothing you can do will make them stay too long. In fact they need to fatten up for the journey, they will nearly double their normal weight in order to survive the flight to winter habitat. Most experts suggest you leave your feeder out at least a week after you have seen the last hummer. This is for the sick or injured that leave later than normal.
Feeding and watching the hummers is a very enjoyable part of the summer season and it is very beneficial for the little birds. They have amazing memories and will return year after year to a place they have found food plentiful.