Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Attracting Hummingbirds

Karma Larsen
There’s nothing common about a hummingbird. In size they are the smallest bird, smallest egg, smallest nest; their colors include metallic greens, blues and reds; they have the highest metabolism of any animal, with a heartbeat of well over 600 beats per minute; and they are the only group of birds that can deliberately fly backwards. 
        Their diet consists of flower nectar, sap from trees, spiders and insects, usually captured in or near flowers. It’s been estimated that not one square meter, or 40” plot of land, goes unvisited by them in any given year. Still, they may go unnoticed until hummingbird feeders are placed to draw them more readily into focus.
        Nebraska is on the migration route for four hummingbirds but only the ruby-throated hummingbird has ever been spotted in Lincoln’s Pioneers Park Nature Center, and then only on its fall migration that occurs from early August into late October. 
        If you’ve never had the privilege of watching hummingbirds closely or regularly, it is well worth the time and effort to entice them into your garden.  You can provide supplemental nourishment with a sugar-water mixture in a hummingbird feeder (4 parts water to 1 part sugar, boiled to remain fresh longer, NOT dyed red and changed frequently during hot weather) but the following plants will attract them into your yard and encourage them to stay longer. They are very territorial and chances are if one bird is attracted, more will come, so it's best to have several feeders out. And even with several feeders out, they may divebomb each other for the territory!
        As a rule, native plants contain far more nectar than cultivated hybrids. For the fall migration that begins in early August and can run almost until frost, there are lots of options. Some of their favorites are: agastache, butterfly bush, daylily, four o’clocks, gayfeather, hibiscus, hollyhock, honeysuckle, hosta, lamb’s ears, milkweed, monarda, penstemon, phlox and salvia.

Note:  With the addition of a few hummingbird feeders and lots of flowering plants, we went from seeing one hummingbird a year to seeing them several times a day from August to October during their fall migration. They are regulars now, but still miraculous to see!

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