CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Ruby throated hummingbirds are returning to Missouri this month. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the best time to put up hummingbird feeders in Missouri is the third week of April. For those who enjoy watching the energetic birds, the best way to keep them around is to have food ready for them when they arrive.
"The ruby-throated hummingbird is one of Missouri's most fascinating birds," said Sara Turner, manager of the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center. "The best way to attract them is to make sure your yard or garden includes plenty of food and color to help them find it."
Turner said red and orange flowers such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, columbine, jewelweed and red buckeye will attract the hummingbirds. Flowers supply the tiny birds with nutrient-rich nectar that is up to 90 percent of their diet.
A simple way to attract hummingbirds is to provide feeders with a nectar solution, Turner said. Hanging the feeder where you can see it from inside your house will nearly guarantee a show as the birds arrive and begin to claim feeders and territory as their own. Turner said to consider placing additional feeders in different parts of the yard if many competing hummingbirds arrive.
When buying a hummingbird feeder, Turner said bee or wasp guards are a valuable feature, which are plastic mesh covers that prevent insects from reaching the nectar. Feeders should be filled with a mixture of four parts water to one part sugar. Turner said it's better to make the nectar solution instead of using premade nectars that include red dye.
"To help the hummingbirds stay healthy, skip the red dye and be sure to change the nectar in your feeder weekly or more often if it becomes cloudy, which will keep bacteria growth down," Turner said.
Some things to avoid when feeding hummingbirds include use of honey or artificial sweeteners, Turner said.
For more information on Ruby-throated hummingbirds and other summertime migratory species, go online to mdc.mo.gov.
For information on programs and events at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, go online to mdc.mo.gov/CapeNatureCenter.