How to welcome ruby-throated hummingbirds as they take over Gulf Coast

Ruby-throated hummingbirds, one of southeast Texas's most reliable spring signals, are returning to the Gulf Coast any minute. For Wild Birds Unlimited, this is huge.

Chron discovered the bird-supply franchise's 27 Texas locations, including five in Houston, via a Memphis store's Facebook notice. “March 15 is the day to get those feeders out,” said Memphis Wild Birds Unlimited. “Clean and prepare them for hungry travelers.”

Tomorrow, yes. These birds will return from Mexico and Central America, where winter flowers and insects are plentiful. Wild Birds Unlimited conveniently sells three- to 16-ounce feeders and “hummingbird poop” chocolate nut toffee candy. (Yum!)

After arriving, our hummingbird friends stay around the Gulf Coast until late July or early November, when they head south again.

They will arrive in time for Galveston's island-wide FeatherFest next month, when ruby-throated brothers have done well in the photo contest in recent years.

Hummingbirds must eat constantly when not migrating, good news for feeder builders. It would fatigue you to flap your arms 50 times each second.  

David Hillis simplified the technique in a Texas Monthly story last year, reprinted from Armadillos to Ziziphus: A Naturalist in the Texas Hill Country.

“Make sure to use regular table sugar to make the nectar (one part sugar to four parts water is standard),” Hillis stated. Avoid dyes, which damage hummingbirds. Clean feeders and refresh sugar water frequently to prevent poisonous molds from harming birds.

Hillis also suggested adding nectar-rich flowers like biennial standing cypress, American basketflower, and Monarda mints including lemon mint, spotted beebalm, and basil beebalm to your feeder to encourage ruby-throated visits.