Friday, April 4, 2008

Hummingbird Havens

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have crossed the expanse of the Gulf of Mexico and have been sited all along Texas, Louisiana, and Florida and they are moving inland. The hummers have found my backyard and feeders. It is time for all of us to get our backyards ready for them.

Bluntly put, there is huge fascination for these small bundles. It is just such fascination that fuels the desire to find a way to attract hummingbirds to our yards. How does one attract these amazing dynamos to your yard? It is a question often posed to me, sometimes in earnest and sometimes in frustration.

The solution to this problem is to garden for Hummers. Special attention must be given your choice of flowers and plants for nectar and trees in which to nest. It is important to remember that these birds are visual. They do not rely on odor, for they have no sense of smell. Consequently choose plants with colorful tubular flowers, red flowers being the best. And yes, there are plants that serve to attract butterflies as well as hummers. My preference is to choose native plants particular to your region, for these require the least maintenance and watering.

In the south, Texas Betony, Penstemon, Bee Balm, Blue Sage, Shrimp Plant, and Turk’s Cap are great choices. In the west, Firecracker Penstemon, Obedient Plant, Columbines fit the bill. In the northeast, one might try Fireweed, Cardinal Flower, Bee Balm, and Virginia Bluebells.

Nesting trees include but are not limited to Red Buckeye or Tulip tree in the south and southeast, Desert Willow in the southwest, California Buckeye and New Mexican Locust in the west, and Basswood in the Northeast.

One should offer feeders as well as flowers to these buzzing wonders. True, the birds will be attracted to the flowers and feed on them first. Yet, feeders will augment the food supply and continue to supply nourishment long after the blooms are gone. One should consider, when buying a hummingbird feeder, one that has a large number of ports. The more ports the less fighting will occur among these territorial birds. One even may want to buy multiple numbers of feeders and place them in different location around the yard to lessen this territorial conflict. Place feeders so that there is plenty of room to maneuver and escape for the hummers but close enough for easy access to cover. In other words, it is best if there is 360 degrees of access around the feeder but not too far from a tree or bush into which the hummer can find shelter.

Preparing your garden and feeders is a great outdoor adventure. This is one activity that will provide many months of delight. So, get things humming in your backyard!

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