I love the month of August. Growing up as a child in Tucson I always loved the summer monsoon season. This year’s monsoon is certainly off to a good start — so far, we have received 5.10 inches of rain at our home!
August is certainly a time of tremendous transition for migratory birds — a lot of birds start making their way south in August, and hummingbird migration activity reaches its peak in August. Each year the number of hummingbirds at feeders gradually increases in June and July, and reaches a crescendo in August. Individuals living at higher elevations — and on ridgelines and hilltops — typically experience the greatest amount of hummingbird activity in August.
Most of the feeders I have in my yard are small capacity, ranging from eight to 16 ounces. Each year I hear from customers in highly active hummingbird areas that they go through between two and three gallons (yes, I said gallons!) of nectar per day!
It is pretty astonishing to hear how many pounds of sugar some customers go through each year to keep their hummingbird feeders going. I am frequently asked if it is ‘safe’ or ‘okay’ to feed hummingbirds. I think as long as you are using the right ratio of water and sugar (4 parts water to 1 part sugar), and if you stay away from adding food coloring, your feeders provide a benefit to birds.
With such a high metabolism, their caloric needs are extremely high. Maybe you could compare this to an Olympic athlete and how many calories he or she consumes per day. It is important to remember that hummingbirds also eat a lot of insects and spiders! Flower nectar and sugar water at hummingbird feeders is just a part of their diet.
It is not uncommon for customers to have multiple feeders, with a backstock of filled feeders in the house so they can instantly replace empty feeders. I know when I fill my hummingbird feeders, I try to do so quickly. I hustle to make a short turnaround from the time I bring the feeders inside to wash, rinse, and refill and get them back outside.
I also make a point to clean and fill my feeders during the middle of the day when there is the least demand for food. I absolutely stay away from refilling feeders at dusk, as this is the time of day when hummingbirds are tanking up and are more dependent on feeders.
High-capacity feeders are a great way to go if you are in a high-traffic area. One of our most popular feeders at the store is the Best-1 brand feeder, made in Poteet, Texas. It is a 32-ounce glass bottle with a plastic base. Surprisingly, even these high-capacity feeders can be emptied in a single day.
One of the nice things about this feeder is the fact that it doesn’t have yellow ‘flowers’ on the feeder, which is common in feeders made in China. Bees are attracted to the color yellow, and having yellow flowers on a hummingbird feeder is a really bad idea.
The most common hummingbird species passing through the Arizona Central Highlands during the month of August include Rufous, Anna’s, Black-chinned, broad-tailed and an occasional calliope hummingbird. Rarer species include Costa’s and broad-billed hummingbirds, so keep a close eye on your feeders for unusual species that might show up.
On a different note, on Sunday, Aug.1, I saw a new quail family with freshly hatched babies that were probably just a day or two old. I also had a black-headed grosbeak in my yard on Sunday.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.