I have been getting a lot of questions from concerned backyard birders about a perceived shortage of hummingbirds right now.
Don't worry, there is no decline or crash in the ruby-throated hummingbird population, locally or nationally.
I suspect those I am hearing from are remembering late summer and early fall last year when seemingly dozens of birds were fighting over the feeders and providing entertaining aerial and chase sequences.
You can expect a repeat beginning in just a few weeks. Remember, hummingbirds are territorial and will not tolerate intruders during the nesting season. Feeders may get periodic visits from a pair of birds if it is located in their territory but the constant activity of August and September will have to wait.
By late July nesting is pretty much over and the business of fattening up for the fall journey begins in earnest. Both young and mature birds disperse and start to inundate feeders, providing non-stop activity. Nectar and sugar water becomes the major food source for fat gain instead of the protein dominated diet of nesting adults and growing chicks of the previous months.
So be patient and keep the feeders fresh and stocked, I can virtually guarantee it won't be too long before the feeders will be a-buzz with action.
I also get questions about bees taking over hummingbird feeders. Keep in mind these insects will not find a feeder unless there is an active leak or sticky spillage on the exterior of the feeder.
Check the condition of the feeder and replace it if damaged, and take care when filling or hanging it. If bees persist just move the feeder a few yards from its current location. That often will thwart bees too. They are also attracted the color yellow. Removing any yellow parts will reduce the chances of bees finding your feeder.
Incidentally, studies have shown that the actual numbers of hummingbirds attending any one feeder are greatly underestimated by homeowners. One rule says to count the total number of birds seen at any one time then multiply that number by six to get an idea of how many hummers you have.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com