In search of ponies: Hummingbirds need some sugar

Every now and then a neighbor needs to borrow a little sugar — and sometimes it could be a matter of life and death.

No, not because of that batch of cookies they started only to realize they didn’t have enough in their canister.

It turns out that perhaps because of the extreme weather we’ve had this year, there’s a bunch of hummingbirds hanging around Clovis and other communities in our region and for whatever reason, they didn’t get the migrate memo.

I received an email this week, asking me to get the word so people might help the little biological hover crafts and I found my interest quickly piqued.

In recent weeks I have seen news reports of how the weather patterns in our region have impact the monarch butterfly migrations. I had also noticed some out of the ordinary predatory bird behavior in the last couple of months, with different species of hawks hunting together in area fields, but I had never thought about humming birds.

“With our weird weather, some of the hummers “forgot” to leave with the rest in early October. They can still catch bugs to eat, but their natural nectar sources are gone since the flowers froze, so they are dependent on the artificial nectar from our feeders to stay alive,” wrote Lisa Moore.

A hummingbird enthusiast who said she and her husband have been enthralled by the tiny birds for 25 years, Lisa said if people will leave their hummingbird feeders out a little longer this year, it might help the prodigal birds get their show on the road like they should have a few weeks ago.

“Keeping feeders out won’t cause the hummers to stay longer. It will just help those who have lingered here survive until they wise up and decide to head out,” she said.

Having always heard that you needed to bring your bird feeders in before the weather turns or our feathered friends will stay with the free stuff and not travel as they should, I did a little research after receiving Lisa’s email. It turns out this happens sometimes and hummingbirds are known to lag behind a little on their schedules when weather patterns run amuck.

What I found most interesting was that rather than forgetting to leave because people are feeding them, they actually need the extra nourishment to build up fat reserves enough for the trip.

If they don’t get enough food, they either won’t leave at all and will die from cold and lack of food, or won’t survive the journey.

One year, Lisa said she even had a hummingbird that stuck around her home until January before going on its trip.

Nectar feeders need to be kept warm in freezing temperatures because a “nectar Popsicle,” as Lisa put it, won’t do them any good. A hummingbird website I visited recommended heat bulbs near the feeder as a good way to prevent freezing, (of course, if you choose this method please follow all product safety guidelines to prevent fire).

As with any holiday season and cold spell, there are many among us that need our help and care, and this one seems fairly easy to pull off, so if you have a hummingbird feeder in the garage, what the heck.

Dust it off, fill ‘er up and hang it next to the garland on the porch.

Not because we want these amazing creatures to leave, but because we want to make sure they can do their thing and come back to visit in time to enjoy the spring blooms.