Monday, August 18, 2014

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Pineapple sage

If you haven't gardened for Hummingbirds yet this year it may not be to late to help the little birds out. Now is when the little guys start to migrate. Hang out some feeders and make plans to garden for them next year. Or you may attract a Rufous Hummingbird to stay the winter in your yard like I did last year! 

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Mix I part white sugar to 4 parts water mix thoroughly, bring to a boil, and cool. Store extra mixture in refrigerator. You don’t need to tint the mixture red but having red on the feeder will help them locate the nectar. Keep it clean, sugar water molds quickly in hot weather. Put it in the open where it will be seen easily. More than one feeder may cut down on hummingbird fights. Hummer’s returning year after year will look for feeders and flowers in the places they were they were the previous year.

Rufous Hummingbird in February 2014

Unlike the Rufous and other hummingbirds of the western mountains, where freezing nights are common even in summer, Ruby-throats aren't well adapted to cold temperatures; they have a tough time below the mid-20s (F), and don't enter torpor (a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy) as regularly as their western cousins to conserve energy. To avoid the cold, and the scarcity of food when flowers stop blooming and insects stop flying, they go south. Some adult males start migrating south as early as mid-July, but the peak of southward migration for this species is late August and early September. By mid-September, essentially all of the Ruby-throated at feeders are migrating through from farther north, and not the same individuals seen in the summer. This is difficult to see, since they all look alike, but has been proven by banding studies. The number of birds migrating south may be twice that of the northward trip, since it includes all immature birds that hatched during the summer, as well as surviving adults.

Hummingbird gardening involves the planting of hummingbird attracting plants. It is just that simple! Hummingbirds consume 1-1/2 to 3 times their own weight in food per day. Their diet includes flower nectar, spiders, and small insects. Because hummingbirds rely on insects as a  source of protein, chemical insecticides should not be used in the hummingbird garden. Not only will insecticides kill insects which are essential to a hummer's diet, but they could sicken or kill the hummingbird that eats insects or flower nectar that is tainted with insecticides
Top Long-blooming flowers for Hummingbirds:
  • Columbine
  • Phlox
  • Bee Balm
  • Fuchsia
  • Salvia
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Verbena
  • Cardinal; Flower
  • Cigar Flower
  • Lungwort

Hummingbird Favorites:

  • Hyacinth Bean vine
  • Climbing Nasturtium
  • Cypress vine
  • Trumpet vine
  • Trumpet Honeysuckle
  • Salvia
  • Verbena
  • Phlox
  • Fuchsia
  • Cuphea
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Black & Blue Salvia

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