Friday, July 07, 2006

hummingbird feeder : Trouble bruin at hummingbird feeders

By Sylvia Brockner

This week, my article consists of replies to correspondence from two readers. In reply to HBL’s request for information about hummingbird feeders attracting bears: Yes, they do. Black bears love sweets, and hummingbird nectar is sweet enough for the local bruins to find them very attractive. They also will destroy your feeder trying to get to the nectar.

I have found two possible solutions to this problem. The simplest is to just bring your feeder in every night. Hummingbirds feed late, and they need that last food to see them through the night. Watch the feeders at dusk, and you will see that they continue to feed until it’s almost dark. When they are no longer feeding, bring your feeders in. The problem with this method is that hummingbirds also feed very early in the morning. So you need to get your feeders back outside by shortly after dawn. As soon as the sun pops over the horizon, they will be waiting for “their” feeder to be returned.

Because I don’t like to get up at the early hour of summer sunrise, I am trying an alternative. I have all my seed feeders hanging from T-bars with pulleys. They are about 15 feet above ground, and a 5-gallon paint pail turned upside down over the top of the pole keeps squirrels, raccoons and bears from climbing the pole to the food. This is also the only way I can keep elk and deer from emptying the seed feeders. They are too high for them to reach. Since we do not need as many seed feeders during the summer, I have put a hummingbird feeder on one of the T-bars. It seems to be working out as far as keeping the bears away from it, but the hummingbirds are not used to feeding that high. They look all around at lower levels, but will eventually get used to it.

As to seed feeders attracting voles, the pulley T-bar system keeps any vole or mouse from reaching the food supply. However, if food spills on the ground, it might well attract mice or voles, but I have never seen one beneath our feeders. The only rat or mouse I have ever seen beneath our seed feeders was one cave or pack rat. They are native animals and present no real problem.

Moles are uncommon here, but pocket gophers are very common. Neither of them comes out of their tunnels very often and, therefore, are little problem at feeders. They do, however, raise havoc with gardens, eating roots, tubers and bulbs, which they find below ground.

If you have seed accumulating on the ground beneath your feeder, try putting out a little less seed each morning. The golden-mantled ground squirrels, least chipmunks, junco and mourning doves clean up any seed that falls beneath our feeders during the day. If they consume any feed that was available on the ground, then there is nothing left for the night prowlers. In addition, it is wise to clean your feeders and the ground beneath them about once a week to help prevent the spread of bird diseases.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife feels very strongly about feeding wildlife. And it’s illegal. Therefore, if you do not want to pay a fine, it is a good idea to fix your feeders so they do not supply food for any of the wild critters.

In reply to a letter from MAD: Your question about spraying trees for pine beetle is difficult to answer. Do not spray any more than is absolutely necessary. I know that if you have a serious outbreak, it is probably necessary to spray, but wait until August if possible. Hummingbirds are often through nesting by then and out of the nest. You probably should take your feeders down for a week before your spraying date. If they can’t find food in your yard, they may move to some neighbor’s feeders where they are not spraying. Although many sprays are advertised as being “bird safe,” you need to be aware that hummingbirds weigh less than an ounce. It takes only an infinitesimal amount of any toxin to affect them. Another less-considered problem is that most insecticides kill any insect, not just the pine beetle. Therefore, all of the tiny insects that hummingbirds normally consume will also be killed, leaving the hummingbird without food. In this year of drought, when there are practically no wildflowers, they especially need their insect food.

After the spraying has been completed and everything has dried off and dissipated, try putting your feeds out again in about a week. This will help any local birds still around and migrants that will be coming through. Most of the hummingbirds will have left for the south by about Sept. 20.


Post a Comment

<< Home