Though it was an unusually mild winter, all of us welcome springtime, especially when we can get past that projected last frost date and start getting our vegetables in the ground and our landscaping projects done.
But, for many of us, there is one more thing to do even before putting seedlings out into the garden. We have to inspect our hummingbird feeders and make sure we’ve stocked plenty of food, for they are about to arrive in droves. And we can’t wait!
There are many species of hummingbirds, but the one that most people immediately recognize—and you have probably have seen them in your yard—is the ruby-throated hummingbird. The male of the species has an iridescent green body, head and wings, with a sparkling ruby throat. The female is not quite as striking, but you can be sure that where there are males, there will also be females. You can go here to look at photographs of hummingbird species, as well as to look at the migration maps for the current and past years. This is one of the most comprehensive sites we’ve found for information about hummingbirds, even having a listing by state or province for those species that are common to your particular area.
The arrival of the hummingbirds is something that everyone here at Garden Harvest Supply looks forward to. There is just something so rewarding about providing food and habitat for these little aerialists that provide excitement and entertainment in exchange for a little sugar water or to thank you for planting flowers that are hummingbird friendly. Every year we all report on our success with these little guys and compare notes. The enjoyment and fulfillment we experience from this simple little connection with one of God’s most amazing creations is extremely rewarding.
Before getting started, there are a couple of things you might want to know, both for the hummers’ and for your own sake. First, there is every good reason in the world to feed the hummers! As we humans have continued to build, we have encroached on the hummingbird’s habitat, just as we have on that of the deer, the raccoons, the mountain lions, quail…you name it, and our civilization has impacted a wild critter’s life. So, why not give back? We’re not suggesting you encourage wolves or mountain lions to share your back yard, of course, but hummingbirds are easy to accommodate; they won’t eat your children or your pets and they are one of the most amusing, engaging, compelling and gratifying backyard visitors.
Secondly, hummingbirds are extremely territorial. As a rule, if you have one feeder, you will have up to 10 hummers that will frequent it. Hummingbirds are pretty smart, considering their tiny brains, and they will not overcrowd one habitat. If only one feeder is available, only a few hummingbirds will claim it as their own, though the battles for dominance over that single feeder will be something to behold. At times you will wonder how any of them manage to eat, for all the flitting and aggressive dive-bombing going on. We recommend having two or more feeders, separated by at least 20 feet, and for most of us here at GHS, “the more the merrier!”
Your choice of feeders is quite extensive. We have window-mounted feeders that will allow you and your children to watch these miracles up close and personal. It is absolutely amazing how long a youngster will sit still and how quiet they can be when watching hummingbirds at a feeder. We have a number of hanging feeders of all different sizes and designs. You can prepare your own food to fill your feeders, or choose from our selection of hummingbird nectar.
Finally, a complete hummingbird habitat will include both feeders and hummingbird-friendly plants. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, so fragrance is not as important to them as it might be to you. The brighter the better when it comes to color, though! There are any number of blossoms that will attract hummingbirds; those same flowering plants also draw in butterflies and bees, pollinators that perform the same functions as a hummingbird. This mutually beneficial relationship has the flower providing nectar while the hummingbird, butterfly or bee transfers pollen from one flower to the next.
One of the most widely planted hummingbird plants is the Monarda, which is also called Bee Balm. In addition to being simply beautiful, Monarda is fragrant and will also attract some of the predatory insects that will help to control damaging pests in your gardens, like aphids. A perennial, Monarda is easy to grow and will provide hummingbird nectar for years to come. Another perennial, and also a hummingbird favorite, is the Buddleia, usually called the Butterfly Bush. Planting Lantana or Fuchsia will also practically guarantee the arrival of hummingbirds in your own environment.
If you have never had the pleasure of hosting hummingbirds to your back yard, you are in for a real treat! Just ask anyone who plants for the hummers or provides nectar in feeders. And if you are really fortunate, the hummingbirds will be happy enough to nest in your yard. They look for sheltered areas that are protected from the weather and safe from predators. To encourage nesting, you can hang our Hummer Helper Cage with Nesting Material. The world will always welcome more hummingbirds! Though you will rarely see a nest, (they are incredibly small), one of the oh-so-special-rewards of creating a hummingbird habitat is watching for the fledglings to visit your feeders or flowers!
To see a live hummingbird on her nest and raising her young, you can watch Phoebe the Hummingbird on a Live Nest Cam. She is a Channel Island hummingbird that has nested in the same place for several years now. This is amazing to see! If this doesn’t inspire you to feed the hummingbirds….
Happy Spring and Happy Gardening from all of us here at Garden Harvest Supply!