Saturday, September 20, 2008

About Hummingbirds and How to Attract Them to Your Garden

The key to attracting hummingbirds to your garden mainly consists of the right type of flowers and places where they can perch and rest during the day, such as trees or large plants. Hummingbirds are guided by visual means and are particularly attracted to certain shades of red. According to The Hummingbird Society, there are several possible explanations for their preference of red blossoms. Given that insects also see nectar, they can be regarded as competitors. Nearly all insects see well in the visible and near-ultraviolet light but poorly in the red end of the spectrum. Also, a red blossom may appear nearly black and unattractive to a number of insects, but not to the hummingbird, which can see the full visible spectrum but also some in the ultraviolet. This makes it less likely that an insect has taken nectar from a red flower. Another likely explanation is that during migration, red blossoms effectively contrast with a green environment more than other colored flowers do.

Hummingbirds are welcomed guests to nearly all gardens. By planting flowering shrubs and plants that are their favored food source, we can easily attract them to become regular visitors to our gardens. Below is a short list of their preferred flowering plants by common name, separated by region:

Southeastern United States:

Butterfly Bush
Cardinal Flower
Coral or Trumpet Honeysuckle
Cypress Vine
Native Trumpet Creeper
Texas Sage

Southwest United States:

Indian Paintbrush
Lily of the Nile
Mexican Honeysuckle
Texas Sage
Western Coral Bean

West Coast United States:

Bottle Brush
Cape Fuchsia
Woodland Orchard

Northeastern United States:

Blue Lobelia
Cardinal Flower
Red Morning Glory
Scarlet Sage

Midwest United States:

Coral Bells
Coral Honeysuckle

Even though flowers are the natural means to attract hummingbirds to your garden, man-made feeders filled with a mixture of water and sugar (sucrose) are an essential alternative. Sugar, whether from a flower or a feeder, is a necessary nutrient in a hummingbirds diet. Tests have shown that hummingbirds favor sucrose in flower nectar more than other sugars such as fructose and glucose. Therefore, with the proper ratio of ingredients, your feeder becomes a good substitute to the flowers that hummingbirds like best.

The formula for the mixture used in hummingbird feeders is 4 parts water (not distilled) to 1 part table sugar. Boil the mixture for one to two minutes, then cool and store in refrigerator. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Do not use red food coloring, honey, or artificial sweeteners in your mixture, as this could be harmful to the hummingbirds.

If one of your goals is to attract hummingbirds to your garden, a visit to your local nursery is a great starting point. Find an experienced employee who can tell you which species of plants grow well in your area and have a history of successfully attracting hummingbirds. Most importantly, be imaginative and have fun planting and growing your garden to attract beautiful hummingbirds.

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