Happy Hummer Season! Welcoming, Helping, and Attracting Hummingbirds In Your Neighborhood

Happy Hummer Season!  Soon the buzzing and whirring sounds of rapidly beating wings and flashes of color will be filling the air in our backyards once again. The hummingbirds return!

My earliest memories of hummingbirds from many years ago recall the stern admonition and warning from my Mother, taking a page from the ‘Mother’s Guide to Eyes & BB Guns’ — “Don’t go anywhere near the hummingbirds or bother them. They’ll poke your eye out with that bill of theirs!” 

This has always seemed out of character with my Mother’s deep love for all things ‘nature’, but she nevertheless firmly stood by it all thru the years. Maybe she knew someone from her past that had an unfortunate run-in with a disgruntled hummingbird. But I tend to doubt it.

Despite the “Eye Poke” warning, we planted a never-ending stream of flowers and butterfly bushes over the years to attract them, and it was always a special time celebrating new arrivals each Spring. It seemed that Summer would not really be Summer without Hummingbirds buzzing around our flower gardens!

Hummingbirds are a joy to observe in the backyard as they hover, flit and fly about, and will very soon be arriving back to summer homes in North America from winter stays in Southern Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and other regions of Central America. Hanging a nectar feeder to greet their arrival in Spring will help immensely as they arrive thirsty and in quick need of nourishment following their long migrations northward.

To find out when to expect the arrival of regional hummingbirds in your area, check out the Audubon Guide.  Residents in the South and along the Gulf shores should expect them first and have feeders out, available, and at the ready. When the tiny hummingbirds arrive after long journeys across the Gulf of Mexico from Central and South America they are famished, exhausted, and in need of quick energy resupply!

I invite you to enjoy this slow-motion “Moment of Chill — The Hum of Wings”,  sponsored by The Orvis Company —

Providing a hummingbird feeder in your yard helps to renourish the little hummers quickly and get them off to a healthier start for the coming breeding season after their arduous travels northward, and can be both a source of entertainment and a healthy learning experience for the children in your family as they learn more about nature.

If unprepared in the Spring, not to worry. It is never too late during the season to put your first feeder out for hummingbirds, and extra feeders in the fall are very important for both local birds to prepare for southern migrations and for those passing thru from up north on their way south. It’s never too late to start.

Hummingbirds need to consume several times their body weight in food intake each day and are necessarily always on the lookout for flowering plants to quench their thirst and maintain energy.  Flowering plants for the hummingbirds are much more numerous and available during the summer months, so providing an early supplementary food source with a hummingbird feeder can help them get thru leaner spells in springtime when flowers and natural food sources are not yet as numerous.

There is no need to worry about supplementing their diet with a feeder and distracting hummingbirds from natural food sources, as they will continue to seek out and consume plant nectar, small insects, and tree saps to prepare for the breeding season, and then later feeding their young in the nest. And later still, preparing for fall southern migrations back to their winter homes.

To select the best feeder, choose one that can be easily cleaned on the inside to prevent contamination and illness for the birds, and one that is brightly colored with lots of red to get their attention and attract them to your feeder.

If you have few hummingbirds in your area, completely filling the feeder is not necessary, to not waste the nectar mixture. As the season progresses, filling the feeder to the brim may be more advisable as the birds will be visiting more often to drink and the feeders will probably be even busier with greater numbers in the summer heat and growing families.

If there are a large number of hummers in your area, a larger feeder with a greater number of feeding ports can help to reduce territorial conflicts brought about by the hummingbirds’ natural territoriality and competitiveness to guard the feeding source by allowing more birds to access the feeder. Everyone enjoys a little elbow room.

Feeders can be inexpensive and plain, or very decorative and ornamental.  The hummingbirds only care about the nectar and happily leave design and decor choices to the humans’ personal tastes.  But it is important for any feeder to contain a good deal of bright red coloration.  Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to brightly colored flowers, including yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples, but are drawn to the color red much more than any other color as it signals a food source to the tiny bird, so they naturally associate the color red with food.

Wearing a bright red shirt one hot day last summer, a hummingbird approached and examined me closely before sadly moving on, clearly disappointed after determining that the giant flower he thought he had joyfully discovered was not in fact, a flower.

There is no need to purchase pre-packaged hummingbird food mixes in the store, as a perfect nectar mix can be easily and inexpensively prepared in your home kitchen using only sugar and water as the ingredients.

It is important to prepare the nectar supplement mixture using only Refined White Sugar, as honey can promote dangerous and harmful fungal growth and should never be used. In addition, organic, natural and raw sugars may all contain excessive levels of iron which can be harmful to the birds. Plain, white refined sugar is sucrose, which when mixed with water comes the closest to matching the chemical composition of naturally occurring nectar in the wild.

With a brightly colored red feeder, there is no need to add red food coloring to the nectar mixture, as the chemicals in food coloring can be harmful to the hummingbirds.

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

To prepare the nectar mixture, simply mix 1/4 Cup of Refined White Sugar in 1 Cup of Boiling Water until the sugar is all dissolved, or a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water if preparing a larger amount. Let the mixture cool and then fill the feeder and hang it outside for the birds. Simple as that.

For best results, hang the feeders preferably about head high so you do not need a ladder to reach it for cleaning and refilling, and also in the shade to keep the nectar from spoiling as quickly as it would in the full sun.  The nectar will serve as a healthy and beneficial supplement to the birds’ natural nectar diet in springtime, and then all summer long as well, providing the birds with an extra and welcome energy boost at the end of long, hot, and dry summer days.

Keeping the feeders freshly filled and available for the birds when fall arrives and having the extra nectar nourishment available will help your little neighborhood hummingbirds restrengthen after the breeding season is finished, boosting energy and helping them to prepare for their long migration back to southern wintering grounds.

Autumn feeders will also provide welcome and needed nourishment to hummingbirds in winter migration passing back thru on their way south. Because of the influx and numbers of migrating birds, putting additional hummingbird feeders out in the fall can actually be very helpful in providing needed migration energy for all who stop by to visit.

Extra nectar mix may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a clean glass or plastic container.  If the mix in the feeder becomes cloudy or mucky, it should be discarded and the feeder cleaned.  The feeder should be cleaned regularly every few days, especially during hot weather to keep it free from mold and mildew, as nectar is a food and will spoil. We usually clean ours every other day just to be safe.

Feeders can be cleaned using various sized bottle brushes and by soaking them in a mixture of 1 part plain white vinegar and two parts hot water, then thoroughly rinsing to keep the birds healthy.

If black mold is detected, soaking for an hour in a bleach mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water can be done, followed by very thorough rinsing. Mold should not be an issue if the feeders are cleaned regularly.

To control and keep away uninvited wasps and bees which may visit hummingbird feeders, avoid choosing a feeder with the color yellow on it, as yellow is known to attract them.  Some feeders have built-in water moats which protect against ants contaminating the nectar, and some have screens over openings which only allow the hummingbird’s long tongue to enter, keeping bees and other insects out.

For additional tips to prevent the problem of unwanted insect visitors,  visit Control All Insects On Nectar Feeders.  In years of feeding hummingbirds with different types of feeders, we have never really had a problem with either mold or uninvited guests.

Hummingbirds can be territorial, especially during breeding season, so there is no harm in hanging out more than one feeder, which may result in even more visitors to your yard.  If possible and for the best results, hang additional feeders out of the line of sight from one to another to attract more birds and to diminish conflicts over territory.

Adding native plants for your regional area and growing them in your garden and yard will also help the hummingbirds by providing natural shelter and food, including a healthy environment for insects. Many are surprised to learn that insects provide an important part of the hummingbird’s diet, especially during the breeding season.

For help in selecting the best native plants for not only hummingbirds but all birds, a great resource to check out is Audubon’s Native Plant Database. Simply enter your zip code to find the recommendations of local experts in your area for your yard. Then you can narrow down the search by the type of birds and/or plants you have in mind.

So, happy Hummer Season!  Little Red Bear and I hope this guide to helping the hummingbirds was helpful, and that both you and your family are able to experience the joys and delights of watching the amazing aerial displays and acrobatics of hummingbirds all summer long. Teaching children about the wonders of Mother Nature can never begin too early, and hummingbirds are fascinating and captivating to watch for all ages.

Likes, Comments, and Shares are always appreciated, in addition to sharing with family and friends to help spread the word to others about Mother Nature and helping to make the world a better place for everyone. Including the Hummingbirds!

Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  A small gesture or kind word can brighten someone’s day or change a whole life around. Join us in the “Smile & Compliment” club and help brighten someone’s life today!  — Jim (and Red!)

If you enjoyed this feature, you may also like — On Singing Birds, Baby Rabbits, and Our “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land!” Video 

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                   “The woods hold not such another gem as the nest of the hummingbird.                   The finding of one is an event.” – John Burroughs

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“Little Red Bear’s Hand-picked Recipes — Pumpkins and Caramels and Apples, Oh My!”

Some things in life should never be repeated. Like the time I mixed up the salt and sugar in a pumpkin pie recipe.  But enough about my 1986 Christmas Salt Pie . . .

Clearly, the recipe which garnered the most attention and comments from last Sunday’s post was the “Sloppy Joe Grilled Cheese Sandwiches” recipe. Just tap on the link if you missed it.  A wonderfully warming lunch or dinner sandwich after raking fall leaves on a chilly day.

If you are new to our Sunday morning recipe sharing and missed the first Little Red Bear Recipes Post explaining what we are doing, simply tap on the link to check it out.

Unsurprisingly, the themes of Pumpkin and Caramel and Apples topped the list of recipes filling the inbox this week.  So, of course, Little Red Bear and I are including some for you.  Starting off with pancakes!

Easy Pumpkin Pancakes

Made with canned pumpkin puree, these look so good you might not even need the maple syrup.  Leave off the syrup?  Who am I kidding?

Easy Pumpkin Pancakes Recipe

Norwegian Apple Pie

Described as very sweet and cake-like in texture, with no crust. The recipe calls for no oils or butter aside from buttering the dish. Note that the recipe makes enough for two pies, as it rises and gains volume with the baking powder. Optional ingredients include nuts and raisins. The nuts would be a definite add in one pie here, and possibly both nuts and raisins in the second. A distinctive and nice holiday treat for guests.  Or, for a Sunday brunch. This is one of those unique dishes where folks will be asking you for the recipe afterward.

Norwegian Apple Pie Recipe

Easy Pumpkin Crunch Cobbler

Little Red Bear likes when the first word in a recipe is ‘Easy’.  He says that it makes him feel more confident and like he has a good chance with that one.  We shared an Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie With Streusel Topping recipe a few weeks ago that we received a lot of praise and enthusiastic comments about. So we thought you might like to see this Pumpkin Crunch Cobbler recipe, too.  Love that crunch!

And, it says ‘Easy’ right there in the title. The first word.

Easy Pumpkin Crunch Cobbler

Caramel Apple Fudge

A few years ago, my twin boys and I fell in love with those Green Caramel Apple Pops put out by the makers of Tootsie Roll candies. The blend of sour apple flavor with caramel is just amazing. They are generally most available at this time of year for fall and Halloween. This Caramel Apple Fudge recipe seeks to reproduce that sour/sweet combination.  And wouldn’t this be beautiful on a holiday table or buffet?

As an aside, before joining Pinterest, I never knew that there were so many amazing and creative varieties of fudge.  I might have been able to name six or seven — tops! At the time of this writing and likely to go higher in the afternoon, I have 344 recipes on my Pinterest Fudge Board. So, if you are looking for a creative fudge recipe, that might be a good place to visit and start.  We undoubtedly will be sharing some special Christmas Fudge recipes in the coming weeks. (Little Red Bear already has a few amazing ones saved on the side!)

Caramel Apple Fudge Recipe

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

While we’re on the subject of Caramel Apple flavors, let’s make some Caramel Apple Bread Pudding.  Bread puddings are always a great way to use up old bread for it not to go to waste. This recipe calls for the King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls which would add a wonderful depth of sweet flavor and goodness if you chose to use them. This would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving dinner, too.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding Recipe

Soft Pumpkin Sugar Cookies With Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

A long title for a cookie perhaps, but taking ‘with’ out of it, what word in that title doesn’t sound good?  Soft sugar cookies with a pumpkin flavor, covered with a caramel-flavored cream cheese icing. This is another of those “this person should have received an award” recipes!

Soft Pumpkin Sugar Cookies With Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Mom’s Homemade Apple Pie

To be clear, this is not my Mother’s apple pie recipe, still looking for that, along with some other old favorites of hers to share with you in the future. She had a plum pie or something recipe that she baked in a brown paper bag that I recall.  I’ve seen the recipe card. Just have to find it again and make one up for you to snap a picture some time. Hopefully with no firefighters included in the photo. It always worked for her.

Getting back to this recipe, it brings to mind the old expression “As American as Mom, Baseball, and Apple Pie.”  Do you put a lattice crust or a solid crust on your pies?  I love the appearance and presentation of a lattice crust pie, especially during the holiday season.

If you haven’t ever tried a lattice crust on a pie yet, it’s really not that hard. Merely a matter of cutting the pie dough into strips and then interweaving them across the top. Instructions are included in the recipe, which received high marks in the post comments. Give it a try if you have never made a lattice crust topping yet.  Little Red Bear always likes to remind that however it looks when it comes out, it will still taste delicious!

What kind of apples to use?  I prefer Gala and Fuji apples for fresh eating, but not for baking. So along with the Jonagolds which I always try to keep around for both fresh eating and baking, I love Granny Smith and Braeburn for their tartness and for their ability to hold their shape when baking. Here is a handy Guide To Apples And Their Uses for you, for reference now and in the future.

Mom’s Homemade Apple Pie Recipe

Family Time is the Best Time!

Sunday family dinners are special times when families step away from busy weekday schedules, get together, and share not only a meal but also important ‘together time’, as well.  Staying connected and involved. It is so easy for us to both feel and become disconnected in today’s hectic, fast-paced world, with all family members being pulled in so many different directions between work obligations, school, after school and social activities. It happens to us before we know it. And I don’t know of anyone yet who has had a successful, meaningful, or long-term relationship with a cell phone.

We all benefit from, but children especially need a home base and safe place to feel secure, confident, and loved. That connection and anchor has always been and will always be family. There is no substitute. Little Red Bear and I hope that you and your loved ones can enjoy family together time today.

      “There is little in life that could not benefit from a little Love, a little Time, and a Stick of Butter.”

Thanks as always for spending part of your day with us! We would be honored if you recommended our site and pages to friends and family.  Little Red Bear and I look forward to your visits here, and hope that in our own way we help to make your day special, too!

We’ll be back every Sunday morning with more of Red’s selected special recipes, so be sure to subscribe in the top right column and follow along to be notified of every new post. And watch for our special Halloween Treats & Ideas post coming next Sunday!

Wishing everyone a beautiful coming week.  Watch for leaves beginning to turn colors and for flocks of gathering and migrating birds heading south for the winter. Like a smile, kindness is a language everyone understands. – Jim (and Red!)

ps — a friendly reminder to friends in the South and along the Gulf Coast states to please keep your hummingbird feeders fresh and filled for a while longer. With it being generally warmer this fall still, some may be passing thru later than they normally would. The little hummers really need that last boost to restore energy for their long journeys across the Gulf of Mexico.

“No amount of money or success can take the place of time spent with your family.”

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” – Walter Winchell

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“A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” – Thomas Keller