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Hummingbirds and Other Songbirds
It is time for the hummingbirds to arrive in San Antonio. If you have crossvine, columbine, salvias or larkspurs blooming they are often the plants on which you first see our ruby-throat and black-chinned hummingbirds.
Another good way to attract hummingbirds is to provide sugar water in a feeder especially made for the nectar feeding dynamos. Mix one part of sugar by volume with 4 parts water. I like to mix the solution in 1-gallon quantities and store the sugar water in a milk jug in the refrigerator. We put red food coloring in our hummingbird mix; it does not hurt the birds, but may not be necessary.
One of the best places to hang your feeders is on the house eave in easy view of your window. The advantage of the feeder being under the eave is that is not diluted by rain and it is usually difficult for ants to find the feeder. There are many good models of feeders. My favorite is the Best A-1 Brand manufactured in Poteet. Select a feeder that is easy to keep clean. You should rinse and refill the feeder every week. Apply a bottlebrush once per month.
In addition to the plants that were listed earlier in the article that are blooming now, consider zinnias, cigar plant, trumpet creeper, Mexican bush sage, esperanza, poinciana, firebush, firecracker plant, Mexican honeysuckle, cape honeysuckle and trumpet creeper for full sun. In the shade, Katy Ruellia, firespike, Turks cap and shrimp plant attract hummingbirds. Hummingbirds visit your landscape when you have blooms from March to December and a sugar water feeder. The most activity occurs in spring and fall. In the summertime, the breeding birds are more territorial and most of us only have a few black-chinned hummingbirds visit our feeders and garden.
Providing water is another great way to attract birds to your yard. Place a birdbath in view of a window or your patio chair for pleasant viewing. The birdbath should be 6 to 10 feet from a thick shrub or small tree so the birds can escape predators overhead. Put it closer than that and an athletic cat can hide in the cover until it is ready to launch an attack. A wet bird enjoying its bath is vulnerable to predators.
If you really want to attract a large number of birds with water, rig up a dripper or have recycling stream. Moving water brings in all the birds. The stream or pond needs sections that are very shallow, 1 inch or less for most success. Last year listeners to Gardening South Texas reported painted buntings, indigo buntings, orioles and many types of warblers at their watering stations. One view of a painted bunting and most people become dedicated bird watchers. The red, blue, green and yellow birds are spectacular.
Instructions for homemade watering stations are available on many websites and in most bird feeding books.
If you feed seeds to the birds, you will need to make a decision about May 1 when the American goldfinches begin their trek to their northern breeding grounds. The advantage of continuing to feed sunflower seed and thistle is that the resident birds will use it all year. Cardinals, Inca doves, blue jays, tufted titmice, chickadees, house finches and lesser goldfinches are fun to observe at the summer feeder.
The advantage of a break in feeding is that there is less chance that the rodent populations will increase to take advantage of the easy pickings. White wing doves, English sparrows and blackbirds also become overbearing at some feeders in the summer. As a compromise, consider only feeding a small amount of seed early in the morning. The most desirable species are more inclined to early morning feeding and the seed is consumed before evening when rodents often feed.