Some people are seeing hummingbirds in the area, which means that we need to get those sugar water feeders out with a 4 parts water:1-part sugar, but it can be a little stronger during migration and a little less strong when it is over 85 degrees. Do not add red dye, as it is detrimental to the birds’ health. If you make your own, it is healthier than the mix at the big box stores. Here are directions and useful tips at https://www.thespruce.com/hummingbird-nectar-recipe-386573.
Clean your feeders every two to three days in warmer weather (five to seven on cooler days) to prevent mold, but don’t fill the feeders full unless your birds use it all in one day. If the mixture is cloudy, replace it, which means it is sour. Ant moats are beneficial to keep the insects at bay. Hummingbirds also receive nourishment from tubular flowers, pollen, and the insects within the flowers.
Oklahoma has two breeding species, the Ruby-throat and the Black-chinned. The Rufous is strictly migratory and is the most aggressive of these flying jewels. Feeders are territory, just like flower patches, so if you notice one bird driving away the others, it will be beneficial to have a second feeder 20-25 feet away. If you have half a dozen or fewer birds, you can place feeders at opposing corners of the house. If there are more than eight hummers, separate the feeders every three feet or more to discourage fights.
Keep in mind that hummingbird moths can be aggressive, too, especially around flower patches. If you’d like to grow your own flowers and provide for the hummingbirds that frequent your yard, they are attracted to tubular flowers that are red, orange, bright yellow, and deep pink. Some of their favorites include trumpet vine, trumpet creeper, salvia, columbine, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, prairie phlox, bee balm, and coral bells. There are several other plants that you can also grow, but those will give you a good start.
Shallow water sources are also important to keep a hummingbird happy, as they will bathe. It is necessary to provide plenty of places as well on which to perch.
Native plants will always be the best choice. Bustani Plant Farm carries some native plants in Oklahoma https://www.bustaniplantfarm.com , Lady Bird Johnson Wild Plant Center in Austin, Texas, at https://www.wildflower.org or Wildseed Farms in Fredricksburg, Texas at https://www.wildseedfarms.com.
If you enjoy gardening and have the space, it is also possible to order seeds from these locations. Having a small greenhouse is sometimes a necessity, especially in the future with an increase in unsettled weather. Remember not to try to save money by using plants and seeds that have pesticide residue, which will kill your birds. Heirloom and organic seeds can be found with a little research in your local area. If you’re not sure about what you’re getting, don’t be afraid to ask the distributor or proprietor.
Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and professional photographer living in Stillwater.