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Flying gems; Inviting Hummingbirds to your Yard

Hummingbirds are always one of the most welcome guests to any garden. One of the smallest of all birds, hummingbirds get their name from the loud hum the fast beating of their wings make as they fly. Hummers are the only bird with the ability to fly backwards. The feisty males chatter as the chase each other around the yard, protecting their territory. This behavior may account for the Aztec myth that hummingbirds are the spirits of warriors that have fallen in battle.

Hummingbirds have the second greatest number of species of any bird family, numbering in the hundreds. The habitat of the many different species ranges throughout the Americas, from Alaska down to South America. The Ruby Throated hummingbird, the most common species seen in the Southeast U.S., is beautiful with the male’s bright green feathers and red throat. Typically, the Ruby Throated hummingbird arrives in North Carolina in mid March, and leaves for southern overwintering habitat in Central and South America in October.

There are other species that visit North Carolina as well. The Roufus hummingbird, less commonly seen than the ruby throated, may be becoming a year long resident of the Carolinas. The Roufus has a higher tolerance for low temperatures than the ruby throated, and have shown up at feeders throughout the winter months.

One sure way to entice these flying gems to your garden is with a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds are both nectar and insect feeders. The feeder provides nectar-like food in the form of sugar water. There is no need to buy expensive red nectar mixes at the store. In fact, artificial red coloring is bad for hummingbirds, and is not needed to attract the birds to a feeder. Simply dissolve 1 part sugar in 4 parts boiling tap water, allow to cool, and fill your feeder. Be sure to replace the liquid every three to five days, as hot temperatures make the sugar water spoil quickly. The feeder should be cleaned regularly with a mixture of hot water and white vinegar. Sometimes wasps can be a problem at a hummingbird feeder. If so, try making the nectar with 1 part sugar to 5 parts water, and avoid feeders with any yellow color, which may attract the wasps.

If you are really interested in creating a welcoming habitat for hummingbirds, consider adding the plants to your garden that supply nectar for them all season long. There are a number of excellent ones which will provide food for generations of hummingbirds and you with a beautiful garden.

The Chaste tree, with purple flowers that bloom for several weeks, is a great small tree for almost any yard. Early blooming Coral Honeysuckle, a native vine, will be one of the first plants visited by hummingbirds in the early spring. Cypressvine, with red flowers and feathery foliage, is not perennial but usually reseeds itself, and is a particular favorite of hummers.

Perennial flowers provide the opportunity to attract hummingbirds from spring to fall. Start with spring flowering Columbine (which requires some shade), then move to the numerous varieties of perennial salvias which bloom until the first frost. Bee Balm is so easy to grow and spreads to fill in a garden bed, and Lantana is a popular perennial with a shrub-like form.

Shrubs popular with hummingbirds include abelia, azaleas, and butterfly bush. Because hummingbirds also consume a vast quantity of insects, be sure to limit the pesticides you spray in your garden.

Read more: Richmond County Daily Journal – Extension YourService Flying gems inviting hummingbirds to your yard

Written By

Photo of Paige BurnsPaige BurnsExtension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture (910) 997-8255 paige_burns@ncsu.eduRichmond County, North Carolina
Updated on Jun 27, 2013
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