KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With it now spring, multiple types of birds are migrating back to the Midwest for the warmer weather.
One of the more popular birds is the hummingbird. Of the 319 species, 15 are found in the United States and only the ruby-throated Hummingbird is common in Kansas and Missouri, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Missouri Department of Conservation.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are a mere 3 1/2 inches long and weigh only 4.5 grams. They can be seen in Kansas and Missouri from mid-April to October.
Plants, especially Missouri native plants, should be an important part of your plan to attract hummingbirds, according to the MDC. Flowers supply hummingbirds with the nutrient-rich nectar that can provide up to 90% of their diet.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds especially love red or orange tubular flowers, such as those found on trumpet creeper, native honeysuckles, and red buckeye.
According to the MDC, hummingbirds loves these Missouri native plants:
- Cardinal flower
- Jewelweed or touch-me-not
- Royal catchfly
- Fire pink
- Wild bergamot
- Trumpet creeper
- Native honeysuckles (Lonicera dioica, L. flava, L. reticulata)
- Red buckeye (a small tree)
In addition to establishing plants that provide natural sources of nectar, you can use hummingbird feeders that dispense a sugar-water solution, according to the University of Missouri. Commercial artificial nectar can be purchased or easily made by mixing one part granulated white sugar with four parts water.
Providing a complete diet in your feeder is not essential, because the birds will balance their diets on their own. Hang the feeder where you can see it from inside your house, according to the MDC.
It is advised to clean the feeder very well to reduce the growth of bacteria, which can make the hummingbirds sick. The MDC says to change the nectar weekly or more often if it becomes cloudy.
The MDC cautions to never use honey or artificial sweeteners. Honey mixed with water can grow a dangerous fungus that will attack the birds’ tongues.
The best time to put up hummingbird feeders in Missouri and Kansas is around April 25, when ruby-throats return to the two states, according to the MDC. If you start feeding when they arrive, there is less chance of them moving on.
The MDC says hummingbird feeding is most successful in late summer and early fall. Some people fear that feeding hummingbirds into the fall may delay their departure and expose them to freezing. The MDC says there is no evidence that feeding slows their migration.
September is typically the most satisfying month to feed hummingbirds. As the nights become regularly cold, ruby-throats begin to migrate south. This occurs in Missouri and Kansas in late September, and by Oct. 10 the ruby-throats are usually gone. That’s a good time to bring in the feeders and clean them for winter storage.