Articles > Animals In The Garden
Hummingbird Garden - 1/16/2015
by Jim & Dotti Becker
The creation of a successful hummingbird habitat in your garden is easy. Like other birds, they need food, water, and spots for nesting, roosting, and perching.
Hummingbird metabolism dictates a diet high in sugar. A ‘typical’ hummingbird consumes half of his weight each day in sugar, requiring several feedings per hour. They obtain their sugar and many other nutrients from flower nectar. Providing a steady succession of nectar bearing flowers, from early spring until late autumn, is the key to attracting these birds.
Hummingbirds are particular about their flowers. They have coevolved with many different plant genera, like Salvia and Penstemon, and in natural habitats are the primary pollinating agents of these flowers. These ‘hummingbird flowers’ are often red, a color which is visible to the birds, but is indistinct for insects competing for the nectar. The often long, tubular flowers also discourage most bees, which cannot reach down far enough to get the nectar.
Red is the color that gets a hummingbird’s attention, but they will also sample flowers of other colors and frequent them if they are good nectar producers. Conversely, though attracted to red flowers, they won’t come back to them if they are poor food sources. A good example of a great hummingbird flower is the Salvia 'Honeydew Melon' pictured above.
Chart #3 lists the hummingbird flowers available in this catalog. Remember, a steady succession of flowers is important.
Hummingbirds also consume many small insects which they find at the flowers. A diversity of flowers promotes a healthy diversity of insect life that is also necessary for their diet.
A complete habitat also includes trees and shrubs for shade, roosting, perching, and nest sites. Don and Lillian Stokes, in their excellent work The Hummingbird Book, suggest willows as a multipurpose hummingbird tree or large shrub. Their flowers are a source of both nectar and small insects, while the downy filaments which aid in willow seed dispersal are a good nest building material.
Hummingbirds get their nutritional water from nectar, but they do appreciate a bird bath. The water must be shallow. To accomplish this in a regular bird bath use another Stokes suggestion. Line the bottom of the basin with flat rocks.
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