It's been years since Beverly Broughton took an ornithology class to satisfy a science requirement in college.
But, she says, "it was probably one of the most useful classes I went to, and I still remember things (from it). How many classes can you say that about?"
The class instilled an interest in birds and, through the years, Broughton has focused on the ruby-throated hummingbird that migrates in the spring to the Midwest (and beyond) from Central America to raise its young during the summer months.
Broughton, who lives in rural Blue Grass, will share what she has learned about hummingbirds, including tips on how to attract hummers to your yard, on Saturday, May 19, during the second annual Pollinators' Palooza at the Putnam Museum, Davenport.
The event is free, sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Iowa State University-Scott County Extension. Other subjects include bees, monarch butterflies and plants that butterflies need. There also will be a plant sale and children will be able to see the 3-D movie "Flight of the Butterflies" for free.
Broughton began to focus on hummingbirds when she found that chipmunks and deer were shaking the seed out of her all-purpose feeders. But neither critter was interested in her sugar-water hummingbird feeders, so she decided to maintain only those. Plus, "hummingbirds are so pretty and they're just so much fun to watch."
Here are some of her tips for attracting these birds:
• Buy a feeder designed for hummingbirds and fill it with a solution of 4 parts water, 1 part sugar. Broughton mixes up a big batch and stores it in her refrigerator.
• If your hummingbirds are hungry, the solution will disappear on its own. But if they aren't draining the feeder, you should change the solution at least every three days, or daily if temperatures are hot, because the solution will spoil.
• While chipmunks and deer leave hummingbird feeders alone, the feeders sometimes attract ants and bees. To deter ants, Broughton puts petroleum jelly around the feeding hole (not on the hole itself) and on the hook or string from which the feeder hangs. Ants get stuck on the petroleum jelly. Bees are more difficult, as they can fly. She doesn't have a sure-fire solution for them.
• Make your entire yard attractive to hummingbirds. Provide food (flowers in addition to feeders), shelter (shrubs and evergreens for them to sit in), water, and a place to perch.
Hummingbirds are attracted to red and orange colors, but nectar is more important than color.
Favorite annuals include salvia, zinnia and lantana. Favorite perennials are bee balm, butterfly bush, bleeding heart and columbine. Favorite trees/shrubs/vines are trumpte vine, Rose of Sharon, lilac, weigela, clematis and evergreens for shelter. Favorite tropicals are hibiscus, canna and fuchsia.
• Research shows that hummingbirds often do return to the same feeder year after year, but Broughton said that without an identifying band or other mark, she cannot tell if the birds at her feeders have been there before or if they are first-timers.