Q: What else I can do to attract hummingbirds?
A: Plant red, tubular, nectar-bearing flowers. Trumpet honeysuckle, trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, jewelweed, and bee balm are all hummingbird favorites.
Another way to provide food is to offer overripe bananas. Hummers have a field day feasting on the fruit flies that inevitably appear.
Q: How can I keep ants out of my hummingbird feeders?
A: An ant guard is an inexpensive moat-like saucer from which you hang the feeder. Fill the moat with salad oil or dish detergent, and ants get trapped in the liquid when they try to cross the moat. Some nectar feeders come with built-in ant guards.
Q: Can you briefly the outline a hummingbird's nesting season?
A: Males return before females in the spring and establish feeding territories. Fiercely protective of their nectar sources, males seem to spend more time chasing competitors away from "their" food supplies than actually feeding.
When females arrive a few days to a week later, courtship begins. The male performs aerial displays while the female watches from a nearby perch. He flies back and forth in a wide semicircle. After mating, the promiscuous male goes on to find another female.
The female builds a tiny nest on a small horizontal branch five to 20 feet above a stream or other open spot. She begins by using sticky spider silk to fasten bits of leaves or bud scales to the branch. Over a span of days, she builds an elastic cup about the size of a walnut. She lines the nest with soft plant fibers and camouflages the outside with bits of lichens.
After laying two tiny eggs, the female incubates them for about 16 days. Because the female tends the nest alone, she must leave it periodically to eat. When she leaves, the eggs cool a bit. One price of single parenthood is an extended incubation period. Young hummingbirds leave the nest about three weeks after hatching, which is usually in mid-July.
To watch an active Allen's hummingbird nest in southern California, visit www.phoebeallens.com. Though this is a western species, the nesting biology is similar. This nest's first egg was laid on April 3rd.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 or email sshala...@aol.com.