Gloria sounded very worried when she called about how long to feed her hummingbirds this fall.
Hummingbirds migrate to summer breeding grounds in Central and South America. Our winters are their summers and vice versa.
Hummers move back to Missouri mid-April, stay through our summers, and normally head back south mid-September to miss our cold weather.
Hummingbirds are good to have in a garden. Although sugar water keeps them going, hummingbirds eat a variety of insects and help pollinate plants.
Widespread drought this summer means hummingbirds have fewer natural options—insects and nectar—for feeding.
According to Mike Doyen, Ozark Rivers Missouri Audubon Society Chapter, "I have seen Ruby throated (hummingbirds) on Christmas but that is the exception. "
Mike recommends keeping a hummingbird feeder up until end of November, especially this year if weather stays warmer than usual.
"A good measure to stop feeding would be Thanksgiving for they are still migrating from up north," Mike said. " Weather will play a role, and if it stays relatively mild, they will be around."
I have always marveled at the thought of these teeny tiny birds making the long trek across the Gulf of Mexico, a trip of 500 miles taking almost a whole day.
Years ago, I was at a scientific conference in Columbia, Missouri, where a researcher who had banded hummingbirds was reporting on his study of how hummingbirds prepare to make the long trip.
One of their strategies is to almost double their weight before heading south.
When the scientist opened the floor for questions, I asked if he was sure they actually made the flight. I grew up with a nursery rhyme that suggested hummingbirds hitched a ride on the back of geese.
The researcher smiled and said no, he was sure. They had banded the birds and every year they find thousands of skinny, exhausted hummingbird bodies strewn across the sand along the southern US coast.
"Naw, she's right," said a grizzly voice from the back. "That's where the geese dump 'em."
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins shares her gardening tips at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2012 used with permission by The Rolla Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.