Hummingbirds in Your Backyard

Interesting Facts

Georgia is home to 11 hummingbird species during the year: the ruby-throated, black-chinned, rufous, calliope, magnificent, Allen's, Anna's, broad-billed, green violet-ear, green-breasted mango and broad-tailed hummingbird.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird known to nest to Georgia. These birds weigh as little as a first-class letter. The female builds the walnut-sized nest without any help from her mate, a process can take up to 12 days. The female then lays two eggs, each about the size of a black-eyed pea.

In Georgia, female ruby- throated hummers produce up to two broods per year. Nests are typically built on a small branch that is parallel to or dips downward. The birds sometimes rebuild the nest they used the previous year.

A few other interesting facts on hummers that visit Georgia:

  • The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird found in North America.
  • The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of North American hummers -- more than 3,000 miles!

Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbird nectar can easily be prepared at home. The best solution consists of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water (this mirrors the sugar concentration of the nectar found in flowers). Boil the water for 2-3 minutes before adding sugar. Cool and store the mixture in a refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

There is no need to add red food coloring. Hummingbirds are attracted to the red color of the feeder and do not prefer red nectar to clear.

Select a feeder that is easy to clean and does not drip. In warm weather, change nectar every 2-3 days or before it gets cloudy.

Periodically clean feeders, making sure that mold and bacteria are removed. Feeders can be easily cleaned soaking them in a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water. Thoroughly rinse the feeders before using them again.

Keep at least one feeder up throughout the year. You cannot keep hummingbirds from migration by leaving feeders up during the fall and winter seasons. Hummingbirds migrate in response to a decline in day length, not food availability. Most of the rare hummingbird's fund in Georgia are seen during the winter.

Ants can be kept away from feeders by installing an "ant moat" between the feeder and the structure on which the feeder is hung. Smearing petroleum jelly or automotive grease on the wire above the feeder can also thwart ants.

Yellow jackets can be trapped using a simple yellow jacket trap made from a 2-liter soft drink bottle. Contact the DNR's Nongame Conservation Section for details. Bees, wasps and yellow jackets can be deterred by smearing cooking oil on the surface of the artificial flowers surrounding the feeding ports on your feeders.

Report sightings of rare hummingbirds as well as all hummingbirds spotted from November through March to: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029, (478)994-1438. Your information could help unlock some of the fascinating secrets about Georgia's hummingbirds.

How to Keep Your Hummingbird Feeders from Freezing

One of the simplest ways to keep hummingbird feeders from freezing in the winter is to place a clip-on shop light equipped with a 150-watt bulb close to the feeder. When there is a chance the temperature will dip below freezing, turn the light on. The heat generated by the light bulb should keep the feeder from freezing.

It is always best to determine how close you can place the bulb next to the feeder without melting plastic feeder parts. Mount the light at varying distances from your feeder and see what works best with your feeder. Use this method to test the set-up before leaving the light on for extended periods of time.

For more information, contact the Nongame Conservation Section at (478) 994-1438 or write to:  Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029.

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Homeowners who are the most successful at attracting hummingbirds combine the use of feeders and hummingbird food plants. Plan plantings so that nectar-producing plants are blooming throughout the growing season. Also plant flowers that attract small, soft-bodied insects, which provide a protein source for hummingbirds. Other plants provide wintering hummingbirds with roosting cover on cold winter nights.

Here are some excellent plants to attract hummingbirds (*denotes wild plants):

 

Herbaceous Plants
Lantana
Red-Hot Poker
Hollyhock (single blooming varieties)
Turk's Cap
(Fireman's Helmet)
Pentstemon
Petunia
Zinnia
Cleome
Four-O'clock
Delphinium
Coral-Bells
Day Lily
Geranium
Phlox
Salvia
Impatiens
Foxglove
Nasturtium
Bleeding Heart
Cardinal Flower*
Columbine*
Coreopsis
Mexican Sunflower
Snapdragon
Jewelweed*
Red Basil
Indian Pink*
Crocosmia
Canna Lily
Butterfly Weed*
Beebalm
Cockscomb
Dalhia
Gladiolus
Lupine
Century Pant
Blazing Star (Liatris)*

Shrubs
Buckeye*
Powderpuff
Mexican Cigar
Shrimp Plant
Hibiscus
Rose of Sharon
Tree Tobacco
Abelia
Weigela
Wild Azalea*
Flowering Maple
Butterfly Bush
Flowering Quince
Azaleas
Winter Honeysuckle
Buttonbush*

Trees
Black Locust*
Mimosa
Tulip poplar*
Redbud*
Crabapple
Orchid Tree
Chaste Tree
Chinaberry
Hawthorne*
Red Horse Chestnut

Vines
Cross Vine*
Trumpet Creeper*
Coral Honeysuckle*
Yellow Jasmine*
Cypress Vine
Scarlet Runner-Bean
Mourning Glory
Coral Vine

Hummingbirds of Georgia

The vast majority of hummingbird species that occur in Georgia are only seen in winter. Many are immature birds or females, and many cannot be identified unless captured and closely examined. Little is known about their movements and the habitats they use in Georgia and elsewhere in the Southeast. With this in mind, reporting sightings of wintering hummingbirds can be extremely valuable. Chances are good that new species will be discovered in Georgia.

To report winter rare and unusual hummingbird sightings in Georgia, call (478) 994-1438 or write to: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029.

The following list includes details of hummingbirds that can be seen in Georgia. (Note: The number of sightings of different species may have changed since this information was compiled.) The Hummingbirds of Georgia fact sheet is available in PDF format (requires Adobe Acrobat).

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
Rare in state past Oct. 31. Most wintering birds are found along the coast.

Size: 3¾ inches

Identification:
Adult male has a bright red throat (gorget) that appears black in poor light, an iridescent green back, white underparts and grayish-green sides. Adult female has a metallic green back, white throat and grayish-brown sides.

Breeding range:
Only hummingbird known to breed east of the Mississippi River. Breeds throughout the eastern United States as far west as eastern Texas and Oklahoma north to Minnesota.

Winter range:
South Florida, southern Mexico to Panama

Black-chinned Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
Fewer than five reported in state each winter.

Size: 3¾ inches (slightly larger than the ruby-throated hummingbird)

Identification:
Adult male appears much like a ruby-throated male. Throat is black with a violet band along the lower edge of the gorget seen only in good light. Adult female appears much like a ruby-throated female.

Breeding range:
Breeds from southwestern British Columbia southward into western Mexico and as far east as Texas.

Winter range:
Mexico

Anna's Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
Only three records for Georgia.

Size: 4 inches

Identification:
Adult male's head is a deep rose-red. Color will actually extend down the side of the neck. Underparts are grayish-green. Adult female often displays tiny red feathers that form a small reddish patch on the throat. Underparts are grayish-green.

Breeding range:
Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona

Winter range:
Pacific coast area from Washington to northwest Mexico and Arizona.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
A very rare winter visitor.

Size: 4 inches

Identification:
Adult male looks much like a ruby-throated male, with a green back, rose-red throat, white underparts and green sides. Adult female has a green back, streaked throat, white underparts and pale brown sides.

Breeding range:
East-central California and Nevada, north to Montana and Wyoming to very western Texas and Mexico.

Winter range:
Central Mexico southward

Magnificent Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
Two birds documented in Georgia, one in summer.

Size: 5¼ inches (Georgia's largest hummingbird)

Identification:
Adult male is metallic bronze-green, with cinnamon rufous color in tail and purple crown. Adult female is duller with no purplish crown.

Breeding range:
Mountainous regions of southern Arizona and south-western New Mexico to Central America

Winter range:
Mexico southward

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
One bird has been documented in Georgia. An adult male overwintered in a backyard in Macon during the winter of 2001-2002.

Size: 4 inches

Identification:
Adult male displays brilliant emerald green feathers on his breast, sides, belly and back.  His gorget is sapphire blue. The bill is reddish-orange and black near the tip. The male's tail is deeply forked, dark blue with a grayish border. Adult female lacks the sapphire gorget and is  green to bronze-green on its underside with a pale throat. The female's bill is predominantly blackish with some orange near its base.

Breeding range:
The broad-billed hummingbird is a Mexican bird that ventures into the United States regularly only in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. It is the most common hummingbird in the lowlands of northwestern Mexico.

Winter range:
Mexico (several birds have been seen in South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama)

Rufous Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
Most common wintering hummingbird.

Size: 3¾ inches (slightly larger than ruby-throated hummingbird)

Identification:
Adult male has a reddish-brown back, rump, tail and sides with orange-red gorget. Adult female has a green back, light brown sides and reddish flecks in throat that form a central reddish spot. Tail has varying amounts of brownish color.

Breeding range:
Southern Alaska through Washington, Oregon, western Montana and northern Idaho.

Winter range:
Throughout much of Mexico

Allen's Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
Less than a dozen records in Georgia.

Size:  3¾ inches (slightly larger than a ruby-throated hummingbird)

Identification:
Adult male has a green back, orange-red gorget, reddish-brown sides, rump and tail. Adult female cannot be safely separated from the female Rufous Hummingbird in the field. Female has reddish-brown color in the tail, greenish back, streaked throat and reddish-brown flanks.

Breeding range:
Coastal California

Winter range:
Mexico

Calliope Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
At least one or two birds are reported each winter.

Size:  3¼ inches (smallest bird in northern North America)

Identification:
The male calliope is Georgia's only hummingbird with rosy purple gorget feathers that form streaks against a white background. Adult female has a metallic bronze-green back; its sides and flanks are cinnamon; the throat is dull, brownish-white with dusky streaks and the breast is cinnamon-buff.

Breeding range:
Mountains of central British Columbia and southwestern Alberta to northern Baha California.

Winter range:
Mexico

Green Violet-ear Hummingbird
Status in Georgia:
The only verified sighting was in Thomasville in July 2001.

Size: 4¾ inches

Identification:
Both male and female birds are dark in color, have a moderately down-curved bill, and are grass green above and below the body. Males have a violet-green central breast spot and ear patch.

Breeding range:
No breeding records in the United States. Breeds in Mexico south into Peru and Bolivia.

Winter range:
Similar to the breeding range.

Georgia's Wintering Hummingbirds

Georgia's wintering hummingbirds still need nourishment during the cooler months. . . Read on to find out more!

Georgians should keep their hummingbird feeders up during the fall and winter because during these seasons some fast, fly-by friends will be buzzing by ice-covered windows throughout the state! Nine species of hummingbirds can be seen in the state -- ruby-throated, black-chinned, Anna's, broad-tailed, broad-billed, rufous, calliope, Allen's and magnificent. The ruby-throated is the only hummingbird that nests in Georgia with very few birds seen over wintering here. Most of the hummingbirds seen in Georgia during the winter months are western visitors. Wintering hummingbirds begin arriving as early as August; however, they appear at feeders anytime throughout fall and winter. In winter, the hummingbird with the longest migration route and North America's smallest hummingbird are among the hummingbirds that migrate here.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division is encouraging people across the state to keep up at least one feeder during the winter months so the DNR can document western hummingbirds that find their way to Georgia. If a wintering hummingbird visits a feeder this year, it may return next year.

Traditionally, Georgians have taken their feeders down in the fall in fear that feeders would keep hummingbirds from migrating. But, hummingbirds migrate in response to day length, not food supply, so leaving a feeder up will not hinder the hummers migrating. Some lucky Georgia homeowners have been known to host six or more wintering hummingbirds!

The rufous hummingbird is the most commonly seen wintering hummer in the southeastern U.S. During one  winter, more than 100 rufous hummers  were documented in Georgia. The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any North American hummingbird, traveling from its breeding ranges that extend from the Pacific Northwest as far north as southern Alaska to its primary wintering grounds in south-central Mexico. However, wintering rufous hummingbirds are spotted throughout Georgia and the rest of the Southeast.

The colorful calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird found in the United States and is one of Georgia's winter residents. The calliope had first seen in the Peach State during the winter of 1998-99.

Many of the wintering hummingbirds are extremely difficult to identify, so don't assume that the wintering hummer at your feeder is a rufous. It may take an expert to positively identify them. If a hummingbird shows up at your feeder from October until the end of February, be sure to contact the Nongame Conservation Section office in Forsyth at the address below. Your information can help WRD document the incidence of wintering hummers and help determine their habitat needs.

Georgians who spot any of the unusual hummingbirds species that migrate through Georgia in winter months are encouraged to report their sightings to the Nongame Conservation Section. Who knows, you may be the first person to report a buff-bellied or other rare hummingbird in Georgia!

To report wintering hummingbird sightings in Georgia, please contact the Nongame Conservation Section  office in Forsyth at (478) 994-1438 or write to:  Wintering Hummingbirds, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029.

Find out about Georgia's hummingbirds and how to attract them to your backyard.

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