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Wayne Post
  • Attracting hummingbirds to your garden

  • If you have a flower garden, you have some of what these tiniest members of the bird world need. ummingbirds depend on the quick energy provided by flower nectar. They are most attracted to odorless, open tubular or trumpet shaped blossoms, from which they draw the nectar with long split tongues.

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  • If you have a flower garden, you have some of what these tiniest members of the bird world need. ummingbirds depend on the quick energy provided by flower nectar. They are most attracted to odorless, open tubular or trumpet shaped blossoms, from which they draw the nectar with long split tongues.
    Only one species of hummingbird, the ruby-throat, is common east of the Rocky Mountains. The average length, in inches, of a hummingbird is 3 inches with a weight of one-tenth of an ounce or less. To keep its tiny body fueled, a hummingbird may visit over 1,500 flowers each day. Hummingbirds usually reach the northern states around May 1.
    What color flowers do they prefer? Red is best, followed by orange and bright pink colors, but will also take to purple, yellow, and blue. A mass of red blooms in baskets, containers, or beds will draw hummingbirds. Group similar plants together, and choose from annuals and perennials that bloom different times of the year. This will provide a steady supply of flowers. If just starting your hummingbird garden, don’t try to do everything at once. Start with three or four flowering plants and add a few more each year.
    Plants native to this area are best since hummingbirds will recognize them. And, such plants are adapted to local conditions, and they host the insects hummingbirds are familiar with. Small insects and spiders are an important part of their diet. It is best to avoid broad-spectrum pesticides. They kill of the insects that hummingbirds consume, and they can harm the birds.
    The hummingbird is too small to bathe the way songbirds do, but placing flat rocks in birdbaths or a misting device will provide needed moisture. Trees, shrubs, and thick vines provide nesting and perching areas for hummingbirds.
    Once you have planted the bright, blooming flower garden, use nectar feeders as a supplemental food source. Such feeders lure hummingbirds toward decks and patios, where they can be easily seen. The feeders should be filled with sugar water, made by combining four parts hot water to one part white sugar (not honey). Hang in shade to discourage fermentation. Be sure to change water regularly — as soon as it gets cloudy, or about twice weekly in warm weather. Feeders should be cleaned well each week.
    These nectar feeders can be lifesavers in early-spring when there are not many flowers in bloom, and in late-fall when the hummingbirds need to fuel up for their trip to Central or South America.
    Among the suggested nectar plants for the bright, blooming flower garden are the following:
    • Spring Bloom Time:  Bleeding Heart, Coral Bells, Columbine
    • Summer to Fall Bloom Time: Bee Balm, Cardinal Flower, Cleome, Dropmore and Trumpet Honeysuckles, Penstemon, Foxglove, Morning Glory, Petunia, Salvia, Snapdragon, and Trumpet Creeper Vine.
    Page 2 of 2 - Once you have a garden with flowers and vines that bloom from spring through fall, nectar feeders, water source for bathing, and trees and shrubs for hiding and resting, you are almost sure to have visits from some of the most dynamic birds on earth.
    Source: Hummingbird Haven, Gardening How-To, March/April 2005
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