An Introduction to Hummingbirds with Carole Turek, Part 1

Reader Contribution by Fala Burnette and Wolf Branch Homestead
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Photo by Pexels/josephvogel

I can recall a particular part of my childhood with fondness, sitting on my Grandma’s farmhouse porch and watching hummingbirds swarm her feeders. Seeing a dozen feeders hung spread out on her front and back porch captivated me, and she loved their company every year when they would visit her farm. With her passing, I developed a passion for the amazing birds that kept me connected to her memory. This led me to really research the ways to care for them over the years, from helpful books to watching informative videos, which eventually brought me to stumble across the great resource that is Hummingbird Spot on YouTube.

Hummingbird Spot was created by Carole Turek of Studio City, Calif., after many years of feeding and caring for hummingbirds in her own backyard. While Carole is a practicing physician of over 30 years, a large passion of hers is hummingbirds, and her dedication to their care led her to open the resource hub that is Hummingbird Spot! The YouTube channel features many helpful videos, live feeder and nest cams, and follows her photography journey as well. She is currently on a quest to photograph every species of hummingbird in the world, with 180 of 363 species currently checked off her list.

Carole Turek of Hummingbird Spot posed with her camera on a photography trip
Photo courtesy Carole Turek

If you would’ve asked me this time last year how many hummingbirds species there were, I probably would’ve only said a dozen or so. I was unaware of the wide array of stunning and colorful species that blanketed the Americas. While hummingbirds are unique to the Americas (and sadly not found in other countries), there are so many beautiful species that it is hard to choose a favorite! I personally adore the Rufous-Crested Coquette (particularly the splendid male and his bright orange crown), while Carole tells me she has a particular connection and fondness for the Marvelous Spatuletail, with a handful of trips photographing this beautiful species and another encounter to hopefully come soon.

I have been fortunate to learn so many amazing things from Carole at Hummingbird Spot, and the channel completely changed how I viewed attracting and caring for my hummingbird friends. With a community of nearly 46,700 subscribers and growing daily, I highly recommend giving her YouTube page a view! For me personally, it changed the way I handle my feeders now

Create a Welcoming Hummingbird Habitat

Living in the South, extreme heat and humidity are an issue during the seasonal feeding of our migratory hummer friends. I had noticed mold in the past that formed in the feeders quite quickly but was unaware of the dangers a dirty feeder could pose to hummingbirds. Carole has an important video called “How to Clean Your Hummingbird Feeder” that impacted how I cleaned my feeders. Soap and water were not properly halting growth of harmful things within my feeders, and so I adapted her methods of vinegar or bleach solutions to give them a thorough clean. I also change my feeders and their contents every 2 to 3 days or sooner, depending on weather and how quickly they are drinking the nectar.

I’ve never included unnecessary red dyes in my feeders, and have always used the universal 1:4 sugar to water ratio, but many people are simply unaware of the potential harm of red dyes and have either been taught to make it this way or think it is needed to attract them. The red color of the feeder is enough to get their attention! Store-bought nectar mixes often contain added preservatives to make them shelf-stable, and often the ingredients contain things such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), calcium carbonate, and potassium chloride to name a few. Keep your hummingbirds safe and healthy with the easy and inexpensive water and sugar mixture (1/4 cup white sugar to 1 cup water, learn more about making it from Carole herself!)

Food for the Birds

One interesting fact about hummingbirds she thought would be fun to share with you all: hummingbirds consume insects for protein as a significant part of their diet! It is not all just natural and human-provided nectars, as many people may believe. When asked why we should care about helping hummingbirds and keeping them healthy. Carole pointed out a particularly important point: we owe it to the beautiful species who increasingly face habitat loss (palm oil plantations, industrial construction, and farming to name some of the major contributors- check out her intense quest to photograph the rare Blue-bearded Helmetcrest). They are losing their food sources and homes as humankind expands and disrupts, and the least we can do is provide healthy nectar sources for these beautiful birds.

Carole Turek of Hummingbird Spot, seen here on an expedition to photograph the White-tufted Sunbeam in Peru.
Photo by William Orellana

Make sure to check back for Part 2 of this incredible opportunity to talk Carole Turek of Hummingbird Spot more and educate people on the beautiful world of hummingbirds. You can check out helpful information and resources by clicking on the included links throughout this article. Let us know if you’ve found this article helpful and tell us all about your hummingbird friends if you feed them.

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building their own log cabin and milling their own lumber, along with raising heirloom crops in the Spring and tanning furs during the Winter. Fala also enjoys caring for migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and feeding them during their seasonal returns. Read all of Fala’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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