When to put out your hummingbird feeders in NJ this spring and where to put them (2024)

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Bruce A. ScrutonNew Jersey Herald

Easter is just a couple of weeks away, and right behind the basket-carrying bunny will be real-life hummingbirds returning from wintering grounds in Central America.

And, putting out feeders ready to greet the early arrivers helps the ruby-throated hummers which not only will make their home in northern New Jersey, but are migrating even farther north into Canada. Add in the snowless winter and warming spring, the birds might be fooled into being here before the spring flowers bloom.

While the warm weather does allow for early hatching of small insects, a major part of the tiny birds' diet, experts say hummingbird feeders can be put out early so they are available for the males, the first of the migrants to arrive. Hummingbirds typically make it to New Jersey by mid-April but the early warm weather could move that timeframe up this year.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is one of a dozen species which breed and spend summers in the U.S. and Canada, but the only species whose habitat is east of the Mississippi River. On occasion, a lost bird - most often a rufous hummingbird - is confirmed visiting northern New Jersey.

The copper-colored rufous is the species which travels the farthest north with a range extending into Alaska. The birds' normal migration includes the eastern slopes of the Rockies and into the Great Plains. It is only an occasional visitor east of the Appalachians.

The hummingbird gets its name because of the beat of its wings − more than 50 times per second − creates a humming sound.

A dominant bird often will perch on a branch near a feeder or flower patch, watching for intruders also looking for a sip of nectar.

Hummingbirds also eat small insects and sometimes pollen.

There are many kinds of hummingbird feeders, ranging from handblown colored and painted glass globes with metal bases and "flowers," to plastic nectar bottles, bases and flowers. Some feeders are also works of art with patterns and figures in the glass and come in various shapes, from upside down maple syrup "containers" to simple globes.

No matter the type of feeder, however, the need remains to keep the nectar supply fresh and the entire feeder cleaned.

Hummingbirds have no sense of smell. They do have a taste for sweet nectar and are attracted to flowers by bright colors, especially red. As a result, most hummingbird feeders will have red on it, whether as the base, the color of "flowers" or even the nectar container. Although commercial hummingbird food often has red food-coloring in it, there is no need to add any red dye to homemade nectar.

If you want to put out a plain hummingbird feeder, a piece of red ribbon can be attached to draw attention.

Where to put hummingbird feeders

The National Audubon Society suggests feeders be placed where they can be seen by passing hummers, but not in the middle of a clearing. Despite its fast, darting movements while in flight, feeding hummingbirds are still when feeding and become a target prey.

A spot 10 to 15 feet from a place of shelter is ideal. A feeder can be hung on a deck with trees a short distance away. Given time and patience, the small birds can become accustomed to the presence of non-threatening humans. There are plenty of pictures online of hummingbirds coming right up to a human and there are a few feeders designed to be hand-held.

Feeders can be placed atop a pole or table; hung on a metal plant hanger or dangled by simple twine from a tree branch.

There are also models which can be affixed to a window with suction cups so the hovering, feeding birds can be seen from inside the home. But be cautious of the background inside the home when locating such a feeder that it doesn't create the illusion of an escape or flight route.

Feeders can be hung where they get some sun, but avoid dawn-to-dusk sunlit areas.

When it comes to what to put in the feeder, nectar food can be purchased in liquid form, usually a concentrate, or as a dry mixture to be mixed with water.

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Nectar can also be made with a 4-to-1, water-to-pure-cane-sugar ratio.

There are precautions to both homemade as well as commercial hummingbird mixtures.

In hot weather, the liquid can pick up bacteria and can also ferment. In the extreme heat of July or August, the nectar can "go bad" in a couple of hours. In more moderate times, nectar can last a week and must be changed if there is any sign of mold.

Feeders also need to be guarded against ants climbing down to the feeder ports (ant cups hold water which creates a "moat" which deters he insects from reaching the portals). Bees and yellow jackets are also attracted to the feeder ports and some feeders come with built-in "bee cages."

The Smithsonian's National Zoo says that in northern New Jersey, males will be the first to arrive, as much as two-three weeks before females, to establish territories. The females will follow and after breeding, build small, tea-cup or smaller-sized nests in a tree or large shrub, usually 10-20 feet above the ground.

How to attract hummingbirds

There are two ways toattract hummingbirdsto your yard and garden.

A first choice, depending on the size of the yard, is to create native planting schemes which provide the birds with what they crave – nectar and insects to eat. Hummers will also eat spiders and even use their long tongues to pluck up insects which have been trapped by a spider web.

Females also often use pieces of spider webs to bind together the materials of their nests.

The flower garden should have blossoms with tubular shapes, such as trumpet vines, Canada lily, cardinal flowers and honeysuckle. A side yard could also have milkweeds, or Eastern columbine or foxglove.

Over the past five decades, the bird populations across North America has declined by as much as 30%, according to the Audubon Society.

Among those declining populations is the ruby-throated hummingbird. According to the society, dried hummingbird bodies are a part of a love charm, known as chuparosa, which are made in Mexico, where the species spends its winters.

When to put out your hummingbird feeders in NJ this spring and where to put them (2024)


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