WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
That photo at the top of this page, with all the hummingbirds crowding around the feeder?
Those are western hummingbirds, mostly broad-tailed.
The photo just below, with a single hummer?
That's an Eastern/Midwestern hummingbird, the ruby-throated.
If you live east of the Great Plains, the rubythroat is your only species. And individual birds are few and far between. Once spring migration is over, you're likely to see only one or two hummers in your yard and at your feeder.
You won't see the multitudes that swarm feeders in the West and Southwest, where hummers are much more abundant, both in numbers and in number of species.
So what's a hummingbird lover in rubythroat regions to do, especially if you're wanting to handtame them?
I've learned some surefire tricks:
THE MORE FEEDERS, THE MORE HUMMERS
Add more feeders! The bigger the buffet, the more likely you'll attract more hummingbirds!
Rubythroats are notoriously territorial—they drive off any competitors from their favorite feeder. But if you have a few feeders, a single bird can't guard all the feeding ports at once.
When I lived in southern Indiana—rubythroats only—I kept my multiple feeders in one group, right by the patio, because that's where I most often sat to watch them.
LEARN THE NATURAL CYCLE
Handtaming hummingbirds is easiest when there are more of them around. For the best chance of success with your Sweetie hand feeder, give it a try at the population peaks:
1. Spring migration: April to early May, for most regions. Hummers home in on feeders when they're traveling and when they're moving in for the year. They want nectar, and they want it NOW, so they're highly likely to shift from that full-size feeder with competition to the one you're holding in your hand.
2. When youngsters leave the nest: July, for most regions. Both parent hummers and youngsters branch out now, broadening their food patrol from the nesting territory to look for good nectar sources farther afield.
3. Fall migration: August into September, for most regions. Hummers from other areas are passing through our yards now, and just like in spring, they're on the alert for any good sources of sustenance.
THE GOOD THING ABOUT DROUGHT
If your area is in a drought, flowers slow and stop their nectar production as they wither and dry up. Feeders have huge appeal now, whether they're full size or little Sweeties. They're life savers to hummingbirds—and the tiny birds are much more determined to use them. Even feisty rubythroats may visit in numbers without fighting. Great news for handfeeding!