Every year around the end of April, I put out my hummingbird feeders waiting for the return of these little birds. Many species of hummingbirds are known to return to the same area every year during their migration. Hummingbirds are very loyal to their breeding territories and often return to the same spot year after year to mate and raise their young.
The most common hummingbird in the United States is the ruby throated hummingbird. It’s average weight is 3 grams. Compare this to the nickel which weighs about 4.5 grams. They can fly up to 30 miles an hour and when diving can reach up to 60. All this flying and diving can make a hummingbird very hungry. They must consume up to one half their weight in sugar daily, and feed 5 to 8 times an hour.
While hummingbirds may be small, they are one of the most aggressive of the bird species. They are very territorial. They not only defend against other hummingbirds, but think nothing of attacking honey bees, and wasps that may be looking for a sugary meal, or even crows and hawks that they believe are invading their territory.
While hummingbird feeders provide a good source of food for the hummingbirds, it can’t compete with Mother Nature’s nectar rich flowers. And besides, they provide beauty to your garden, and attract other pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to gardens with brightly colored flowers, especially those that are red, orange, or pink. They are also drawn to tubular flowers that allow them to feed on nectar with their long beaks.
Tips to attract hummingbirds to your garden:
- Plant nectar-rich flowers: Plant flowers that produce plenty of nectar, such as bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, trumpet creeper vine, salvia, fuchsia, penstemone, columbine and pineapple sage.
- Use hummingbird feeders: Hang hummingbird feeders in your garden filled with a nectar solution made from one part sugar to four parts water. Change the nectar solution every few days to keep it fresh.
- Provide perches: Hummingbirds need places to rest between feeding flights. Plant shrubs and trees with sturdy branches where they can perch and rest.
- Provide water: Hummingbirds need water for drinking and bathing. Place a shallow dish or birdbath in your garden with clean water. They also are attracted to spraying or moving water so adding a fountain to your bird bath will help attract them.
- Avoid pesticides: Hummingbirds are sensitive to pesticides, so avoid using them in your garden. Instead, use natural pest control methods.
- Provide nesting material: Hummingbirds build nests using spiderwebs and other materials they find in the environment. Provide nesting material in your garden, such as small twigs and bits of string, to help them build their nests.
Make your own sugar solution:
You can make your own sugar solution for hummingbirds. Mix four cups water with one cup of sugar. Boil the mixture for at least 30 seconds to discourage mold growth. (not in a microwave, it breaks down sugar molecules and may change the nutritional value. Let the solution cool before filling your feeder. Store any leftover solution in a clean jar in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
You do not need to add red food coloring. You should not use honey, because it encourages fungal growth and could contain botulism organisms that can kill the hummingbirds. The solution should be changed every 4-5 days if placed in a sunny location, and once a week if in the shade. Every time you change the nectar you should thoroughly clean the container with hot water.
Hummingbirds are so enjoyable to watch and I look forward to seeing them every spring. I encourage you to put up your own hummingbird feeders and plant some of the flowers that attract them to your garden.
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