Hummingbirds: Jewels of the Sky

Hummingbirds just make me smile. They are so tiny, yet so tough. I would even put them in the “bossy bird” category. I would also place them in the dazzling category. 

Texas can boast having 17 species that either live or pass through the state with the Trans-Pecos region supporting the most amount of species. The two most common species that occur in Texas are the Ruby-throated (central and east Texas) and Black-chinned Hummingbirds (central and west Texas). Both arrive in the state in March and April, and then head south between mid-August to the end of September. As they migrate south it is vital that they have enough food to fuel them along the thousands of miles they journey. You can provide food and water for these avian friends by planting native plants that flower in the fall or place a hummingbird feeder out starting in early August. Here are some tips on maintain a healthy feeding station for the hummers. 

  1. Create the mix with ¼ cup of REFINED white sugar and 1 cup of boiling water. The sugar must be refined. Mix the two together, stir until clear, pour into feeder, wipe the feeder down, and hang outside. 
  2. Make sure your feeder stays clean. If the hummingbird mix starts looking cloudy or has been out in the heat for a few days, replace the liquid. 
  3. Wiping the feeder clean of sugar-water from the outside will help reduce the number of bees that come to the feeder. 
  4. Make sure the feeder is hung out of reach of cats.  
  5. If you hang a feeder out, be sure to be consistent with it from year to year as a hummingbird will remember where it found a good food source from season to season. 
  6. Please DO NOT use feeder mix that has red dye in it.

I have my hummingbird feeder hung outside my office window so I can enjoy seeing them while I work. The feeder in my front yard is near other flowering native plants so the tiny birds have a variety of feeding options. 

The Lady Bird Wildflower Center has a special Hummingbird Collection on their website which lists lots of great plant ideas to attract and feed our feathered friends. I also highly recommend picking up a copy of Hummingbirds of Texas to learn about the birds and what plants attract them. The information and photos in the book are excellent. 

One of the best places to see the hummingbirds is in the Davis Mountains in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. Several species breed in the area during the summer, while others filter back through on their migration south for the winter. Each year (canceled in 2020 for Covid) a group of dedicated volunteers puts on the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival to celebrate the tiny, dazzling birds. I have to admit the mix of the starkness of the desert mountains, the flowering cactus and other plants and the jewel tones of the Hummers is a magical sight to witness. The festival is canceled for 2020, but hopefully will resume in 2021. 

Rufous Hummingbird- Davis Mountains. Photo: Jennifer Bristol

The other place to see the hummers, is along the Texas coast as the Ruby-throats congregate before making their leap of faith across the Gulf of Mexico to their wintering grounds in Central and South America. Other hummingbirds travel overland into Mexico and points south. Some species such as the Buff-bellied Hummingbird can be found year-round in the Rio Grande Valley. 

If you can’t leave your house but need a Hummer fix, have a look at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s- Feeder Watch– on their website. 

No matter what part of Texas you live in, there are likely hummingbirds passing through your area during August and September so consider hanging out a feeder and planting native plants to enjoy these jewels of the sky. 

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