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The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird in North Dakota

Attracting Hummingbirds

Although North Dakota attracts only the ruby-throated hummingbird, the joys of feeding this species in your backyard can be very rewarding. Their jewel-like colors and unique habits make them one of the most fascinating birds attracted to backyards. The following tips will help get you started.

Planting a Garden

JPG -- Plants That Attract Hummingbirds

Perhaps the most natural way to enjoy hummingbirds is to provide a variety of flowers and plants that they enjoy. These plants are available from seed or as nursery stock from your local greenhouse. To maximize the chances of attracting birds, plant flowers in clusters rather than scattering them about. Vines can be planted along a fence or on a trellis at the back of the garden with groups of other short flowers toward the front. This will provide you the best unobstructed view of your visitors. The list below includes general species of flowers which attract hummingbirds.

                    Trumpet Vine         Tiger Lily 
                    Coral Berry          Snapdragon
                    Lilacs               Dahlias
                    Honeysuckle          Spotted Touch-Me-Not
                    Rose of Sharon       Morning Glory
                    Zinnias              Cardinal Flower
                    Petunia              Delphinium
                    Columbine            Canna Lily
                    Phlox                Jewelweed
                    Daylily              Penstemon
                    Scarlet Sage

Using a Feeder

Another way to attract hummingbirds is to use a feeder. A hummingbird feeder may be utilized alone or to compliment natural flower plantings and does not have to be expensive to get the job done. What is required is a feeder designed to dispense a sugar solution similar to that found in the bird's favorite flowers. Many folks build their own simple feeder from a bottle, rubber cork, and drinking tube similar to ones found in rabbit or hamster cages. Commercial feeders are available in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges.

Before purchasing a feeder, make sure it is easy to clean and fill. The feature of small plastic screens which cover the nectar ports may prevent unwanted insects, such as bees, from entering. Glass feeders are easier to clean than plastic but more fragile. You may also consider choosing a feeder which is made with red parts which will advertise its presence. Although most commercial feeders are bright red, enamel paint may be brushed onto feeders which lack this coloration.

Positioning and Filling a Feeder

JPG -- Picture of a Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbird feeders should be hung in the shade near perching sites and protected from the wind. Since most birds arrive in mid-May, the beginning of the month is an appropriate time to hang the feeder. The birds are not shy so don't be afraid to get the feeder close to a window where they can be observed. Male hummingbirds can be quite aggressive in defense of their territory. If the feeder is multi-stationed and is being dominated by a single male, use of an additional feeder may be necessary to attract more than one bird.

Once the feeder is in position, it must be filled with a solution containing four parts water and one part sugar. Use ordinary table sugar, not honey which may promote the growth of mold and bacteria. Boil the solution and let it cool before filling the feeder. Do not dye the solution red because dyes may harm the bird's natural functions. Commercial mixtures with added vitamins and minerals are a needless expense since birds also prey upon insects which provide them with needed nutrients. Feeders can be left out until late September. There is no danger of keeping a bird too long. Instinct will let them know when it's time to head south.

Maintaining a Feeder

Keeping your feeder clean to prevent growth of mold and bacteria is important and should be done about every three days whether warm or cool temperatures prevail. Discard the old solution and use a scrub brush with hot water or shake a vinegar and uncooked rice solution in the feeder to clean hard-to reach places. Do not use soap or detergent solutions.

Bee screens may prevent bees and wasps from entering the feeder, however, ants can also be a problem. They can usually be discouraged by smearing a ring of Vaseline around the route insects use for travel to the feeder.

Report Hummingbird Sightings

The nongame program is interested in receiving your observations of hummingbirds in North Dakota. The most recent information is from Stewart (1975) which reports locations prior to 1972. If you observe a ruby-throated hummingbird, please send in the information in legal description format or in direction from closest landmark to: ND Nongame Program - Hummer, 100 N Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck ND 58501.

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