They are starting to show up a few at a time. They are staking out their favorite flowers and feeders. Their buzzing wing beats can be heard in gardens up and down the Upper Texas Coast. They are fast and feisty. And they love sugar water. They are back.
They are back for a short time, to rest and bulk up for the remainder of their long journey down south. The ruby-throated hummingbirds will soon be coming though in massive numbers, funneling down the coast and, eventually, head out over the Gulf of Mexico toward the Yucatan in Mexico and beyond. Their yearly migration south for the winter is an astounding feat for such a tiny creature. They will need all the energy they can get while here, so they feed on nectar and small insects to build up a storehouse of fat.
While their main diet is nectar from mostly red tubal-shaped flowers, they also glean tiny spiders and aphids in trees and shrubs. This gives them the extra protein they need. Of course, they also love to fight over the hummer feeders we offer them as a source of additional nectar. Just make sure the feeder is clean. Mix four parts of water and one part regular sugar. Do not add food coloring as it is bad for them. You should change and clean the feeder once a week so mold does not grow.
Of course, native flowers are the best source of all. One of their favorite here is the Drummond’s turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) with its upright small red tubal flower and large heart-shaped leaves. If you want to plant only one plant, this is the one.
The height of their fall migration is mid- to late-September, and there will be tens of thousands of little ruby-throats buzzing through. There might be one or two other species mixed in but very few if any. This is the ruby-throats route.
To celebrate their annual journey, several locations offer community nature days and festivals. At the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, there has been a long-standing event offered to young and old for 20 years now. The Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza will be from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.
It features hummers being captured, weighed, measured, studied and banded. It’s all part of a long-term hummer migration study, and the public is invited to come view the banding. Hopefully dozens, maybe hundreds, of hummers will be banded.
The event also offers booths with live animals and educational activities, snacks and shaved ice booths, symbolic adoption of a hummer with a certificate, native plant sales, nature store and hummer talks. And Sir Archie will be on the grounds. For more information, go to gcbo.org.
So, keep those feeders clean and full and enjoy these little marvels for a while.