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Hummerbird Celebration Returns after Hurricane

Did you know a hummingbird weighs less than an envelope? See these beautiful tiny colubris at the 30th annual Hummerbird Celebration in Rockport. Photo courtesy of Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce

Each fall, ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate through the Coastal Bend towns of Rockport and Fulton on their journey south to Mexico. As migration peaks in mid-September, the two communities hold an annual three-day Hummerbird Celebration, this year Sept. 13-16, in honor of their tiny visitors.

“Thirty years ago, the people of our community saw the phenomenon of hummingbirds migrating through this area — they’re so magical,” said Diane Probst, president and CEO of Rockport Chamber of Commerce. “They thought the celebration would be a great way to show people that we need to leave these habitats here so they will have a place forever.”

Last year, Hurricane Harvey hit the Coastal Bend two weeks before the event. The community canceled the Hummerbird Celebration as recovery efforts began. Even though the event did not take place, maintaining hummingbird habitats was part of the recovery. Volunteers buzzed in all over, setting up feeders and plants to keep the birds coming through. Donations of supplies were shipped to Rockport-Fulton from bird lovers everywhere.

Despite the devastation of a Category 4 hurricane, the migration last year was still spectacular, Probst said.

“We don’t expect any change in the number of migration this year,” she added.

A special reception opens the first night of the Hummerbird Festival, which is Thursday, Sept. 13. A Texas barbecue dinner will be served with all the trimmings, including cobbler. Keynote speaker Martha McLeo, who was recently named “Birder of the Year” by Swarovski Optic/Bird Watcher’s Digest, will lead a presentation on “Harvey, Hummingbirds, and Hope.”

On Friday through Sunday, the celebration features self-guided and boat tours along the intercoastal canal, where guests can see about 30 different species of shorebirds. Other activities include lectures and photography lessons.

The celebration encourages residents to establish their backyards as hummingbird habitats. In her own yard, Probst has a variety of feeders and native plants. She uses a 4-to-1 water-sugar solution without dye, a recipe proven to be the closest to nectar as possible.

“There’s no need for dye,” said Probst, dispelling the myth that red dye helps the birds find the nectar. The red-colored feeder is enough.

“Hummingbirds can see for miles,” she continued. “It’s like putting a chemical into the water, and they’re so small and delicate. It’s like feeding your kids an abundance of Kool-Aid.”

Backyards planted with salvia, trumpet vine, almond verbena, turk’s or fireman’s cap will marvel at the action these habitat-friendly plants will draw during migration.

“You could see up to 100 birds in your yard at once,” Probst said. “They feed, go to the trees, go back to the feeders — that’s the normal. Hundreds of birds going from trees to feeders; it’s like an aerobatic show.”

Once the birds get their first breath of cool air as the season moves from fall to winter, they’re gone. The first cool front is all it takes to empty backyards of the lively buzzing birds.

During the Hummerbird Celebration is the time to see the action up close. One of the main attractions, the Hummer Home Self-Guided tours, opens the backyards of 30 homes to exploration.

“These are people who have worked in their yard all year long to cultivate it for hummingbirds,” Probst said. “There are benches set up, you sign a guest book, you sit and watch the birds.”

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