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Hummingbirds

Learn about hummingbirds and learn how to make healthy nectar for these tiny feathered pollinators.

As we venture into spring, New Mexico becomes a major hot spot for hummingbird migration. Let's learn more about hummingbirds and how to make your own healthy nectar for them!

About Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the second largest group of birds on the planet, with more than 300 species. They are native only in North and South America. They can be found in Alaska and other parts of the United States to as far south in South America as Chile and Argentina. They are some of the smallest birds in the avian world with some weighing less than a penny. Larger ones weigh around 20 grams (this is less than one ounce).

Some species of hummingbirds consume up to three times their body weight each day. That would be the equivalent of a 180 pound human eating 540 pounds of food per day. But unlike humans, hummingbirds won’t gain weight because they use a lot of energy. That's because they have to power their wings, which can beat between 50 and 200 times per second; their heart, which averages around 1,200 beats per minute; and their breathing, as they take approximately 250 breaths per minute (compared to humans who take around 12 to 20 breaths per minute at rest).

Hummingbirds as Pollinators

Hummingbirds play a key role in pollinating plants. While the hummingbird is gathering nectar, it is also gathering pollen and in turn helping pollinate plants. These birds have a symbiotic relationship with certain plants that cater to the hummingbirds’ distinct tongue. More than 150 plant species depend on hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds have little to no sense of smell and are attracted to brightly colored flowers, especially red flowers. That’s why feeders that have red flowers attract more hummingbirds. It is a common misconception that hummingbirds are attracted to the red nectar because they are actually attracted to the red flowers.

Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar 

Here is a great healthy homemade nectar recipe that you can make to attract hummingbirds to your own yard!

Ingredients

  • Refined white sugar
  • Water

Directions for making safe hummingbird food

  1. Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved
  2. Do not add red dye
  3. Fill your hummingbird feeders with the sugar water and place outside
  4. Extra sugar water can be stored in a refrigerator
  5. Change feeders every other day and thoroughly clean them each time to prevent harmful mold growth

Another option is to have a hummingbird/pollinator garden. Check out the Pollinator Garden Tips for plants that will attract pollinators of all types including hummingbirds. Good luck and happy birding!

Also, if you do not have a hummingbird feeder or would like to make your own, here is a great resource that lists numerous designs to fit your backyard needs!

Additional Resources

http://magazine.wildlife.state.nm.us/hummingbirds-are-unique/

https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration-spring-2020-map.htm