Any guest to your home would be charmed by your hospitality and look forward to making a return visit if you offered them spa-like accommodations, beautiful flowers and great food. The hummingbird is no exception, and they take up residence every summer in our area.
Although there are over 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, only 16 migrate each year to North America, and only one– the Ruby-Throated hummingbird– nests east of the Mississippi River. The Ruby Throats overwinter in Mexico and Central and South America and begin their migration in late winter. On the way they fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico (at least 500 miles) and begin arriving in Pennsylvania in mid to late April. Some return to familiar surroundings–others, especially yearlings, stake out new territory to claim as their own.
To make your garden more attractive to these prospectors and encourage them to return next year, it helps to have several elements present. First and foremost, hummingbirds will be attracted by large drifts of nectar-producing flowers and hanging baskets filled with blooms. When selecting hummingbird-friendly flowers, remember that hummingbirds are attracted by sight, not smell. Tubular, brightly-colored flowers are most enticing and include hollyhock, columbine, daylily, monarda, foxglove, red crocosmia, salvia and petunia.
Although these tiny creatures weigh less than a penny, they can fly up to 50 miles per hour and thanks to their wing structure are the only birds who can fly both forward and backward. They have an extremely fast metabolism and feed approximately every 10 minutes. A few supplemental feeders filled with nectar will ensure that these voracious eaters have plenty to eat; since they are somewhat territorial, they may fight over a single feeder so try to provide at least two.
Garden Accents offers unusual hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders in a wide array of stunning colors which are both attractive and functional. A simple rubber stopper with replaceable fill tube makes these jewel-like feeders easy to fill and maintain. Also readily available in garden centers & outdoor stores, are garden variety feeders which you will find in both glass and plastic – typically with red and yellow accent colors to attract the hummingbirds.
To make your own homemade nectar which closely approximates flower Hummingbird and Monardanectar, mix 1 part white table sugar with 4 parts water in a saucepan and bring to a boil for two minutes. This ensures just the right concentration of sugar to water, helps dissipate any chlorine in the water and kills any mold spores which might be present. Let cool and fill your hummingbird feeder with this homemade nectar; any leftover will keep for one week if refrigerated promptly. Place the feeder in a slightly shady area suspended by sturdy string from a stand or tree branch and be sure to monitor the feeder for timely refilling. Give your feeders a thorough cleaning once a week with hot water and dish detergent, always being sure to rinse thoroughly. In extremely hot temperatures, you may need to clean and replace nectar every 3-4 days.
Another important element is shelter. Trees and shrubs provide nesting areas and protection from predators, and tiny microclimates exist within the network of branches and foliage to offer escape from the elements during unseasonable weather. In our backyard, wild trumpet creeper vine with its long tubular red flowers and dense foliage is a hummingbird magnet and provides cover and security for hummingbird nests which are about the size of a golf ball. Buddleia is also a great shrub to incorporate in your border with its mix of bloom-laden panicles and woody foliage—it will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds, providing both food and shelter. Despite popular belief, hummingbirds do have tiny feet and can perch on a branch or line to feed. Their feet are not developed sufficiently for walking, however, and the hummingbird is much better suited to flying.
Last but not least, the presence of some type of water feature in your backyard will draw hummingbirds to your yard. A daily bath is a necessary part of the hummingbird’s routine and keeps their fast-moving wings free from dirt and debris.
There’s really nothing like the thrill of watching these amazing little birds feeding, darting from flower to flower or defying gravity while hovering at your backyard feeder; their grace, beauty and agility is something to behold. With just a little planning and work, you can coax your backyard landscape into a hummingbird haven, making it more enticing for all who enter!