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Flying Colors: Emeralds and Rubies in the Sky

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Hummingbirds visit us for a short period of time from the Spring until Fall. There are 18 species of Hummingbirds in North America. The most common hummingbird seen in Northern Virginia, is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

They commonly are referred to as the Emeralds and Rubies in our sky. These little beauties can fly backwards, upside down, weigh about the weight of a penny and lay the world’s smallest egg. They typically only lay 2 eggs a brood the size of a blueberry.

Hummingbirds eat about every 10 minutes and they drink up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. When using a Hummingbird feeder, we recommend filling them with a 4 part water to one part sugar solution. This solution can be made by using plain table sugar, no Splenda or Equal. Boil your water and add in the sugar, let it dissolve. Once it is cool you can pour some into the feeder and place the remaining solution in your fridge.

The solution should be changed every two to three days and every other day when it hits 90 degrees outside. Most WBU stores carry 8oz and 24 oz packages of sugar as a convenient way to make the solution for these flying jewels. We also recommend adding a rain guard to your feeder to help protect it from getting watered down. Another great tip is to keep it in the shade or near some flowers. Bee Balm, Cardinal Flower and Bleeding Hearts are great perennials to plant in your sunny garden. When the hummingbirds are not at your feeder they can be found drinking nectar from flowers, eating small gnats, spiders, aphid and flies.

How do you feed these little guys? Well we have a great selection of feeders to choose from. We have beautiful glass ones called droplets, or glass ones that look like a potted plant. The sphere feeders can do double the work, when it’s not a hummingbird feeder it can be used as a small watering dish or hold mealworms. Our number one best sellers are our Wild Birds Unlimited brand. That are easy to clean, can be put them in the top rack of your dishwasher or simple rinsed at the sink of your kitchen.

Our WBU feeders come with an ant moat molded into the nectar dish. Ant moats are an important item to add onto any hummingbird feeder to prevent the ants from getting into your nectar.  Just add a little bit of water to the ant moat and a drop of oil to keep it from evaporating too quickly. These can also be used when hummingbirds season is over, for bark butter bits, mealworms, or water.

The NEVER list: never add food dye to your feeders, flower nectar is colorless and pure, that’s what your hummers want. Never use honey, it spoils too quickly and if it ferments cause a fatal fungus to form on hummers tongues. Never use sports drinks, fruit juices or other sugary substances like soda.

Look for these little jewels flying through your yard this weekend. Then come into our store and put a pin in our “Hummingbird Location Map” so we can all see where these beautiful little emeralds and rubies are!

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