Dozens of hummingbirds visit Roseburg home

September 15, 2016 GMT

Dozens of hummingbirds buzz and zip around the Kolkers while they dine al fresco on the back porch, looking out at the eastern view from their hilltop home.

Sandy and Robert Kolker moved up to Roseburg from Sacramento 10 years ago and have been feeding the tiny birds ever since.

“I feed them very well,” Sandy said. “It’s just fun and I enjoy feeding them. It’s dinner and a show.”

Three to five dozen hummingbirds enjoy the five feeders at the Kolker’s house, all year round. Though these hummingbirds would normally migrate south in September, some of them stick around through the colder months to continue feeding at the Kolker’s feeders.

“If you need to feed them in the winter, you need to keep feeding them or else they’ll die. If you don’t want to feed them in the winter, you need to stop in September,” Sandy advised.

“If you put feeders out, you need to have perches nearby,” Robert added. The two stick the ends of tomato cages between the boards of their deck so the birds can perch close to the feeders.

When Robert Kolker comes outside in the morning with the fresh nectar, the hummingbirds have been known to land on him, especially if he happens to be wearing red.

“They greet me at the door,” he said.

Some of the birds have migrated away, and the Kolkers see the most hummingbirds during their springtime migration.

In the winter, they’ll sit right next to each other under the porch and huddle together for warmth. They find shelter and nest in the tall, peeling madrone trees on the sloping backside of the Kolkers’ property.

“My mother had hummingbirds, she had a lot,” Sandy said. “That’s how I fell in love with hummingbirds.”

The nectar takes just sugar and water, and Sandy said it’s important to boil the water and cool it off before feeding it to the birds, as they’re susceptible to bacteria in tap water.

The best time to see the birds feed is at sunrise and sunset.

“They’ll just buzz around you,” Sandy said.

“I just like watching them fly around,” Robert added.

The couple fed hummingbirds in Sacramento for 20 years as well. When they sold their California house, the new owner said he’d continue feeding them, and the Kolkers still see the feeders up when they drive by while visiting family.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Assistant Wildlife Biologist Nick Leonetti said there’s no legal restriction on feeding hummingbirds in Douglas County.

“Most of the birds here are going to stay here anyway as long as they have food, so they could be keeping some of them here year round, but it’s not going to affect the population,” Leonetti said. “We usually discourage feeding wildlife, but bird feeders and hummingbird feeders are a little different.”

However, the nectar can attract bears, so he recommends taking the feeders down when flowers start blooming and the birds have other sources of food in the spring and summer.

Leonetti also recommends maintaining a clean feeding site.

“When you artificially congregate any sort of wildlife, you increase the chances of spreading diseases,” Leonetti said. “So if they’re not cleaning out their bird feeders regularly, they could potentially be spreading the diseases throughout the different bird populations.”

To learn more about hummingbirds in Oregon, visit the ODFW website at www.dfw.state.or.us/species/birds/hummingbirds.asp.