ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. (WAFB) - If you have a hummingbird feeder, now is the time to fill it up. It’s peak season for the tiny birds. The Tunica Hills area near St. Francisville happens to be one of the best spots in the country to see them.
The annual Feliciana Hummingbird Festival draws hundreds of visitors each September to the gardens of Carlyle Rogillio. He put up his first feeder about 20 years ago and quickly realized how sweet his spot really is.
“Just almost five minutes we had a hummingbird,” Rogillio said. “Two minutes later another one came and they fought, so I had to put up another feeder, and it's kept on going, and you can see the results.”
At least six feeders are strung along his yard for the festival, and the sheer number of hummingbirds that show up is stunning. Hundreds of the winged creatures swarm the feeders, offering a unique opportunity for scientists with Audubon Louisiana.
Experts delicately trap dozens of the birds and take detailed measurements such as their beak length, weight and fat content. Curious onlookers crowd the table to witness the meticulous process.
Each bird is fitted with a tiny, numbered aluminum band, then it’s placed in the hand of a lucky volunteer to be released on its journey south for the winter. The hope is that some of the banded birds will be re-captured by other scientists along the way.
“Migration really begins in hummingbirds in south Louisiana as early as late July, and it continues all the way to the beginning of November, so it’s a really long migration,” said Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana’s Director of Bird Conservation. “There are millions of birds migrating from across the eastern United States down through the Gulf of Mexico.”
Louisiana happens to be smack in the middle of that path, and the data collected by scientists shows hummingbirds are thriving.
“Ruby-throated hummingbird numbers are actually doing really well. They’re sort of a success story among birds, and so their population has almost doubled in the last fifty years,” Johnson said.
He said much of the reason why is likely the bird’s popularity among humans. The intense interest translates to more feeders and gardens tailored to hummingbirds.
“Red flowers that offer nectar. Things like salvias, Turk’s Cap, there are many native plants that do that,” Johnson said.
If you do put up a feeder, make sure you do it right.
“We recommend mixing your sugar water with four parts water to one part sugar, and then cleaning your feeders once or twice a week – just depending on how hot it is. When it gets hotter, that sugar water gets moldy much faster,” he said. It is not necessary to add red dye to the water.
The artificial color could actually be harmful to the birds.
Rogillio helped create the National WildBird Refuge to protect and track birds in Louisiana. He said he’s happy so many people come to his Tunica property each year to learn about hummingbirds.
“We don’t really realize how we should appreciate what we got here. Louisiana is a great place to live and to be,” he said.