The Backyard Buzz
Get your feeders ready. September is the peak season for the raucous Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

 

Hummingbirds need to put on 30 to 40 percent body fat for their long migration, making hummer friendly backyards essential.

Have you ever thought of your backyard as another channel on your television? If you haven’t, you should. With a small budget and a little imagination, you can plant flowers and place feeders all around to attract birds that will stage a show sure to please everyone in the family, especially if yours includes a cat.

September is a great month to start your own reality series.

That’s when the feisty, metallic green and iridescent red Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are at their peak. Once you’ve attracted a few to your back window, their aerobatic displays around feeders and flowers will provide endless hours of entertainment.

Attracting hummers is not only easy, it is essential to these tiny birds that migrate up to 1,500 to 2,000 miles a year. As they journey from the North through Dallas on their way to Central and South America, they require a tremendous amount of energy. That’s where a nectar feeder in your backyard becomes the perfect quick energy pit stop for their migration marathon. Most hummingbirds need to increase body fat by 30 to 40 percent to make the lengthy flight.

Flowering plants also play vital and visual supporting roles. David Hurt, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited on Lovers Lane says, "It is not surprising that the bloom of their favorite plants coincides with the peak of hummingbird season in Dallas." He suggests planting Turk’s Cap, Mexican bush sage (purple or purple-and-white), Lady in Red salvia, and - the it hummer flower of the moment - the electric blue anise-scented sage (Salvia Guaranitica) called Sapphire. I should tell you that hummingbirds are picky about color, so be sure you don’t pick up the light blue or violet shade; it’s got to be the electric blue.

Once you’ve set the stage, it won’t be long before these tiny birds will begin hovering around your house. In fact, Hurt recommends hanging three feeders that are visually separated. Resident hummers are bent on defending their feeders, and if you spread them out it will increase your chances of attracting more hummingbirds.

Once the season comes to an end in mid-October, remove your saucer feeders, wash and store them, and get ready for the early November arrival of the American Goldfinches. Hang multi-station tube or sock feeders filled with thistle seed at least 15 feet from other winter bird feeders and near a brushy area. By Thanksgiving you should have a flock that will turn a dreary winter day into a technicolor TV show.

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Hummingbird Dos & Don’ts

Don’t use mixes with red food coloring.

Do hang multiple, visually separated feeders.

Do mix four parts sugar to one part water (store extra in your refrigerator for easy refills).

Don’t use feeders with yellow markings"they attract flying insects.

Do change liquid twice a week.

Do hang red ribbon on fences or trees to draw attention to your yard.

Hummingbirds need to put on 30 to 40  percent body fat for their long migration, making hummer friendly backyards essential.

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Birding Resources
The Dallas area is great for year-round birding. Here are some events and resources for your enjoyment.

Audubon Dallas schedules once-a-week field trips to local hotspots. They also offer seminars and birding trips. www.audubondallas.org.

Cedar Ridge Preserve sits on 633 acres and features 10 miles of hiking trails, a native plant nursery, butterfly gardens, and picnic areas. It’s a great slice of the Hill Country just 20 minutes outside of Dallas. Sunrise to sunset, Tuesday-Sunday. 7171 Mountain Creek Pkwy. 972-293-5150.

Bird Talk offers birding forecasts, unusual sightings, and helps with identification questions. www.audubondallas.org/forum.
 
Wild Birds Unlimited is a one-stop shop for bird seed, birdbaths, feeders, houses, bird and nature attracting products, and advice. 4314 Lovers Ln. 214-891-9793; 6333 E. Mockingbird Ln. 214-821-7400.