Attracting hummingbirds to your backyard and garden is much easier than it sounds. These small birds have a special knack for finding their favorite flowers, and a powerful memory for returning to their favorite spots - even after years of visiting! A common mistake is to think that hummingbirds find their feeding ground through a flower's scent, but this is untrue - they have nearly no sense of smell. Instead, they seek out tubular shaped flowers, heavy with nectar, and specific colors, such as red, pink, and orange. This is why hummingbird feeders work so well: they typically are lined with the color red, or other strong colors. A major plus is that hummingbirds are always on the look out for new places to feed. This does not mean that once they find a new feeding ground they will abandon yours - these birds must feed at least every 10 minutes, so the more the better!
To start, try some or all of the following:
- Plant a hummingbird garden. A great part of a hummingbird's diet consists of sugar, which they get from nectar and tree sap. Here are some of the many plants that make a great hummingbird paradise:
--Flowers: Canna, Foxglove, Lupine, Yucca, Coral Bells, Agapanthus, Petunia, Impatiens, Fuschias, Begonia, Honeysuckle
--Trees/Shrubs: Azalea, Red Buckeye, Lantana, Butterfly Bush
--Vines: Honeysuckle, Morning Glory, Trumpet Creeper, Cypress Vine
- Hang a hummingbird feeder. These are very easy to find and affordable. You can buy a special feeder mix, or make your own by boiling 1 part sugar to 4 parts water 2 cups water for two hours. A word of caution: do not use food coloring or any type of dye, honey, or artificial flavors - these will harm the hummingbirds.
- Hummingbirds are very territorial. If possible, we recommend hanging at least two feeders.
- Red is a very attractive color to them. Tying a red ribbon near your feeder will make them curious enough to explore, as well as making the feeder more visible.
- Clean your feeder at least one time per month. Not only will you continue to provide hummingbirds with a great feeding source, but you will keep them coming (they will not feed on spoiled syrup).
- Hummingbirds spend 80% of their time perching. By including possible perching plants or other perching-potential items in your garden, hummingbirds will be more likely to linger and return.
- Bathing in running water is a pleasing hummingbird pastime - they love dripping water. They enjoy misted leaves to bathe in, so adding water misters near plants with wide leaves is a definite attraction.
- Eucalyptus trees are desirable to hummingbirds not only because they provide good perching ground, but also because they use them for nesting material.
- Hummingbirds don't just feed from nectar. Part of their diet is made up of protein that they get from little insects that they eat, particularly fruit flies. Because of this, it is best not to use pesticide in your hummingbird garden, since the birds may feed on infected insects and become ill themselves.
By following some or all of the above suggestions, you should see some hummers very soon. Although, keep in mind that many hummingbirds do migrate, depending on your region, so do not become discouraged if they do not show immediately - there are many online resources outlining migratory and species information, such as www.hummingbirds.net.
Some fun hummingbird facts:
- They take nectar at 13 licks per second
- They can consume up to 2/3 of their body weight daily
- They can flap their wings 60-200 times per second
- Their Heart beats up to 1260 times per second
- They can fly up, down, forward, backward, and sideways
- Some migration routes consist of up to 600 miles in length
- There are 16 different species
- Feet are only used for perching
- They can fly up to 60 miles per hour
Vanina Mangano is co-founder of MYeFlora, an online gardening community. Vanina is a business professional and a passionate gardener who enjoys writing about and participating in nature. Visit her site at http://www.myeflora.com.
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