Learn all about hummingbirds this Saturday at Crosby Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By Patricia R. Drackett, Director and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service

Two times for a very popular program will be offered this Saturday, September 1 at the Crosby Arboretum. Come learn about hummingbirds with long-time bander James Bell at either 9:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. Jim will reveal the secrets for filling your yard with hummingbirds!
In his program at Crosby Arboretum, James will tell you all about what is going on in the hummingbird’s life.  Why do they fight so much?  How do they feed?  He will give you simple methods, and tricks, guaranteed to attract them.

Hummingbirds are simply amazing creatures. These tiny birds can hover, and even fly upside down to access a flower.  They beat their wings about fifty times a second.  Hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico to overwinter in Central America, and migrate through our coastal area in spring and fall.

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It can be great fun to watch hummingbirds cavorting around feeders.  I know some folks who maintain a dozen feeders or more during the migration periods.  However, if you are new to using feeders, you must know that a sugar water mixture ferments quickly, producing toxic alcohol.

Remember to change the mixture before it becomes cloudy, at least twice a week during hot weather, which can cause more rapid fermentation. Clean your feeder well, for example, with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts water.

You don’t need to purchase special feeding mixtures. Plain white table sugar is typically used at the rate of about a quarter cup of sugar to a cup of water. Bring to a boil to kill any molds or fungi, and let cool before filling a feeder. Raw or organic sugars are not recommended, as they can contain harmful amounts of iron. Don’t use honey to sweeten the water, as it can promote fungal growths.

Locate your feeder in a shady place, such as under porch eaves. This will slow the fermentation of the sugar mixture and prevent the development of molds and fungi. Finally, keep feeders away from areas where cats can hide and prey upon the birds.

Hummingbirds are attracted to red or orange flowers that are tubular in shape, such as trumpet creeper, red buckeye, coral bean, and cardinal flower. As the tiny birds lap up nectar, pollen is taken up as well, and transferred as they visit the blooms.

But hummingbirds don’t live on nectar alone. They also eat small spiders, and insects such as fruit flies and ants. Interestingly, they will feed on tree sap through the holes drilled by other birds such as woodpeckers or sapsuckers.

Providing plants with the blooms hummingbirds prefer is a great way to attract these beautiful creatures to your garden. We’ve spotted them this year feeding on the Pentas, Salvia, and Coral Honeysuckle in our pollinator garden. Come visit this weekend and see for yourself!

Story Time at the Arboretum begins this Saturday, September 1. From 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., children will enjoy listening to a story in the beautiful natural setting of the Arboretum. In case of inclement weather, the program will take place indoors. This month features Kristina Davis from The Teddy Bear Museum. Members’ children are free, and non-members’ children $2. Stay tuned for more Story Time dates and times that will be announced at a later date.  Call 601-799-2311 to sign up and guarantee your place.

We are looking for families, groups or businesses to construct a scarecrow(s) to be displayed on our trail system throughout the months of September, October and November. The deadline for accepting entries has been extended until September 9. A sign recognizing your family, club, or business may be placed near your scarecrow. For more information please contact Kim Johnson at 601-799-2311 or kim.johnson@msstate.edu<mailto:kim.johnson@msstate.edu>.

Mark your calendar for BugFest on September 21 and 22, and our big Fall Native Woody Plant Sale on October 5-6 (Friday and Saturday). A floral design workshop with horticulture professor Dr. James Delprince will be held during the sale on Saturday, October 6.

For more information on our activities and visiting the Crosby Arboretum, see our Facebook page or website (www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu). We’re located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).