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Friday, September 14th, 2007

Hmmm: Better late then never holds true

By Betty Lawrence
I procrastinated and didn't hang my hummingbird feeder outside until just a few weeks ago.
The red feeder al-ready has attracted several of the amazing tiny birds that are migrating right now, much like the regal monarch butterflies.
According to Kathy Garza-Behr, a wildlife communications specialist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the old saying that hummingbird feeders should be taken down by Labor Day (to signal them that it is time to migrate south for the winter) is not true.
There are always a few stragglers and September is a good month to assist the trailing birds, she says.
"Actually, September is a good time to put them out so they get some of that food source (nectar) to build up their weight for the long trip," Garza-Behr says.
Migrating takes a lot of energy and they need to store energy to continue their travel, she says, often increasing their body weight by 50 percent before beginning migration.
"So many people think once they start migrating that it's time to take the feeders down, but leave them up because that's an extra food source for them," she says. "Some of the last travelers may not be in good health and they need that extra food."
She advises people to leave their feeders out a week or two after you see the last hummingbird leave the feeder.
Hummingbirds are stimulated to start migrating south when the daylight hours become less.
"It triggers a hormonal change in them," she says.
It never occurred to me that birds, of any kind, have hormones.
So it seems I inadvertently have helped the birds who need it the most, the procrastinators, just like me, who wait until the last minute to begin their long journey.
Various species of hummingbirds, which actually are a tropical bird native to South America, winter in different locations. Some migrate to Central and South America while others, such as the ruby-throated hummingbird, make a 2,000-mile journey between Canada and Panama. There are some species of hummingbirds that travel to southern Texas, Florida, Mexico and even Cuba.
Amazingly, some hummingbirds fly nonstop for 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico to reach their final destination. That portion of their flight will take them approximately 20 hours at 25-30 miles an hour, Garza-Behr says.
And curiously, by the time the birds reach their destination, they begin to molt their wornout feathers. They will have a brand new coat in a matter of weeks.
Americans are blessed as the hummingbirds are found only in the Americas and are unknown in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Mother Nature has given us a beautiful thing to look at and simply enjoy if we just take the time.
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