How homeowners can help hummingbirds prepare for nesting time

Georgia will receive ruby-throated hummingbirds for nesting in a few weeks after overwintering in Mexico and Central America.

Many homeowners will fill their nectar feeders and clean their flower beds to give rich nectar for the newcomers. That's crucial because the tiny birds need lots of the tasty liquid to nest quickly.

Long bills and tongues show that hummingbirds evolved to eat nectar. Some experts believe 19 eastern US native plant species co-evolved with hummingbirds to exploit their feeding habits. Tubular flowers on most plants seem suited for hummingbirds.

By feeding hummingbirds nectar, plants are pollinated. The ubiquitous, reddish-orange trumpet creeper blooms in May. The bird dips its bill into a bloom to drink nectar and spread pollen to neighboring blooms.

Hummingbirds need nectar and a range of minute insects and arachnids such mites, mosquitoes, aphids, little bees, gnats, and spiders. Some studies believe ruby-throats eat 50%-60% insects throughout nesting season.

According to native plant expert Doug Tallamy, the percentage may be higher: “Hummingbirds need nectar but eat 80% insects and spiders.” Spiderwebs are essential to hummingbird nests.

Hummingbird mothers feed their offspring nearly solely on small insects and spiders for protein. Insects give birds vitamins, minerals, oils, and lipids that nectar doesn't.

To attract hummingbirds to your yard, grow native, nectar-producing flowers that attract little insects. Wild columbine, obedient plant, and NJ tea. Clean and fill nectar feeders.

Astronomer David Dundee of Tellus Science Museum: Sunday brings a new moon. Before daybreak, Venus and Mars are low in the east. Jupiter rises west at sunset and will appear near the moon Wednesday night.