Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Hummingbird Migration Time!

A few days ago, I had a teeny tiny flight-capable maniraptor with a beak sized and shaped very like an embroidery needle who subsists on a diet of straight-up sugar water hovering and feeding just a few inches from my squishy, easily-injured big clumsy primate eyeballs.
It looked like this:


8.21.10 - Hummingbird Hero Shot

(I apologize for the blurriness, but it's a wonder I got this photograph at all. If you look close, you can see the very beginnings of the namesake sparkly red throat feathers, meaning this little guy is a young male.)
Yes, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are showing up en mass at my feeders. I had just one up during much of the summer, but I now have three, of
varying sizes and shapes. They're all the standard kind you can get for under ten bucks at Evil Big Box Store, but honestly they work quite well. They seem to enjoy the little feeder that looks similar to this design best (mine has many more feeding ports). But the Opus Oriole Feeder (which the Orioles have staunchly ignored, go figure) is gaining in popularity, especially after I made smaller hummer-friendly perches with garden wires as seen here:

8.21.10 - Hummingbird at Oriole feeder

I never know what the consensus is on store-bought nectar mixes. Every spring it seems as though we get a warning not to use red dyed food, even though I've never heard any circumstantial reports that such food is dangerous. But I stopped using store-bought food last summer just in case -- and also because homebrew nectar mix is so ridiculously easy. Here's what you do:

1) Put three and a half to four cups of water in a teapot (the less water you use, the sweeter the mixture will be; my hummers seem to like the 3.5 cups best). Bring this to a boil.
2) Put one cup of sugar in a heatproof container. A large-ish saucepan works well, just as long as it can contain the water you are currently boiling.
3) When the water is boiled, remove it from the heat, then pour it in with the sugar and mix it together. Set it aside to cool and fully dissolve for a while, then refrigerate it in a pitcher or repurposed iced tea bottle. And you're done!

Some notes: No, it isn't dangerous for humans if they accidentally drink this; it's just sugar water. Yes, you must use sugar, not honey and certainly not fake sugar/Splenda/Sweet-N-Low/whatever. Nor shall you use brown sugar, confectioners sugar, or powdered sugar. Just ordinary table sugar will do. My rule of thumb: if I wouldn't put it in my coffee, I wouldn't make the Hummingbirds drink it either.

Wikkid Important Edit: Sheri Williamson of the lovely "Life, Birds, and Everything" blog commends my use of homemade sugar water because the dyes and preservatives used in store-bought nectar mixes are linked "with DNA damage (oh God, WHAT?), abnormal behavior, abnormal sperm, reduced reproductive success, reduced body and brain weight, and... increased hyperactivity symptoms." The idea of a hummingbird suffering from increased hyperactivity is going to be tonight's nightmare fuel.

8.21.10 - Hummingbird Hero Shot

And please brew some nectar and set up a feeder. It's been an unusually dry summer and these little guys have a hell of a lousy trip ahead of them.

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Sketch of the Day!

You haven't had enough of Hummingbirds have you?

8.21.10 Sketchbook Page

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There's a new teaser trailer for "Tangled" "Rapunzel" out and...



I've said before that if you go back and watch old trailers for the Disney classics, NONE of them inspire confidence. But this... this is like a "Scott Pilgrim" level of boneheaded advertising (and I say this because if "Rapunzel" bombs, it'll be for the same reason "Pilgrim" did: the wildly misaimed and utterly baffling marketing campaign.) Between this and the loathed "BLAM!!!" -uh- things, this is why you can't have nice things, Disney.

4 comments:

fieldguidetohummingbirds said...

I never know what the consensus is on store-bought nectar mixes. Every spring it seems as though we get a warning not to use red dyed food, even though I've never heard any circumstantial reports that such food is dangerous. But I stopped using store-bought food last summer just in case...

Hi, Trish,

Your instincts are spot on. The consensus among hummingbird experts is that the store-bought stuff is junk, and expensive junk at that. There's nothing in it to justify the price (up to 8 times the cost of plain granulated sugar), and what is in it besides sugar really is potentially dangerous to creatures that need to drink up to five times their weight in nectar or sugar water in a day to meet their energy needs.

Medical research has linked the dyes used in these products (Red #40 and Red #3) with DNA damage, abnormal behavior, abnormal sperm, reduced reproductive success, reduced body and brain weight, and other serious problems, all at at dosages lower than a hummingbird gets from drinking a bright red feeder solution. A recent British study on young children found that Red #40 combined with sodium benzoate, a preservative commonly added to "instant nectar" products, increased hyperactivity symptoms (something parents have been saying for years). These chemicals are definitely not something we should be feeding to wild birds. Thanks for helping us get the word out!

Trish said...

^^ Thank you very much. I will add this information to the main body of the post.

kathkin said...

That trailer made me make this face: :O

I... what? Is he high? He sounds like he's high. Because a stoner with a video camera just screams 'fairy tale'. *rolls eyes*

I've heard that this film is horribly misrepresented in the marketing, and that better be true. :(

Trish said...

^^ From all I have heard, "Tangled" is wonderful and a lot of fun. Similar to "Aladdin" in other words. Hence the "Scott Pilgrim" comparison. Every critic I trust loved the hell out of "Scott", but the ad campaign was just "Here is more of Michael Cera being Michael Cera and also random classic arcade games references for some reason". <:(