They’re Back! Hummingbirds Return to New Mexico!
This is the week when just a few reports of hummingbirds becomes a chorus of sightings. Many birders swear that hummingbirds return on April 15th, or so. It’s true that many of you see a hummingbird for the first time in the middle of April but we’ve had an increasing number of sightings since about March 22nd. That might seem early, but it’s not. Every year we can count on a few reports the last week of March with more and more sightings as we get deeper into April. It stands to reason that hummingbirds don’t all show up on the same day or even the same week. They are not all coming from the same spot. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (the earliest arrivals) winter throughout Mexico, even into Central America, so it makes sense that hummers wintering in Southern Mexico will arrive in in our area later than those that winter hundreds of miles further north.
I usually hear a Broad-tailed Hummingbird before I see them. The loud trill made by the wing-tips of the male Broad-tailed can be heard up to 250 feet away and is loudest during nesting season. By mid-winter, those feathers have worn down enough to make the sound almost inaudible.
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are the first hummers to show up in our state. Some of them will stick around to nest and some will continue on further north. Black-chinned Hummingbirds will begin to arrive any day and some of them will also decide to nest in our area. Black-chinned winter mostly in Western Mexico.
Both Broad-tailed and Black-chinned can enter torpor (a state of physical inactivity) on cold nights. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the resting heart rate of the Black-chinned Hummingbird is 480 beats per minute but in a state of torpor that can drop to between 45-180 beats per minute. Like the Black-chinned, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds can also slow their body functions (including body temperature) way down to better survive cold weather. Black-chinned Hummingbirds can eat 3X’s their body weight in nectar in one day when it’s cold out. Natural nectar from flowers is in short supply this early in the season so be sure to get your feeders out soon. These early feeders can help hummingbirds that are unable to find enough natural food.
Hang a feeder where you can easily see it so you don’t miss the show and be sure to keep your nectar fresh. Change it twice a week and don’t use any red dye. A clear solution of one part white table sugar to four parts boiled water is best. If you buy nectar, be sure it contains no dye.
I have used a saucer style hummingbird feeder for years because the hummingbirds like them, they don’t drip, are super easy to clean (I tend to be lazy so that’s important for me), and bees don’t like them. Keeping your feeder clean is very important as sugar water can mold and become toxic for birds.