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HUMMINGBIRDS - Attract Them To Your Garden

Hummingbird on Delphinium

Hummingbirds are among the most intriguing of all garden birds. Their bright colors, unusual flight, speed and the way they fearlessly protect their territory make them exceptionally interesting birds to watch and study.

With just a little effort on your part, you can encourage these fascinating birds to be regular visitors to your garden.

Hummingbirds (300 species) are found only in this hemisphere. Sixteen species are known to live or migrate through North America, traveling as far north as Canada and Alaska. The most common here is the 'Rufous' species.

FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT HUMMINGBIRDS

1) Its heart is, in proportion to its body, the largest of any living being.

2) At rest its heart coasts along at 500 beats a minute and will at times, during its maneuvers, double.

3) Its breathing rate is 250 times a minute when the bird is resting.

4) They consume, on average, half their body weight daily in sugar. If a human had a comparable metabolism rate we would require 1,140 hamburgers daily to maintain the same level of activity as the Hummingbird.

5) These birds can go into a temporary hibernation-like state called 'torpor' when needed to save energy outgo.

6) Their daytime body temperature is 105 degrees, which will drop to around 70 degrees at night to conserve energy.

7) With a normal wing-beat of 40-70 beats a second they can accelerate to an estimated 200 beats a second during a 60-mph dive.

ATTRACTING HUMMINGBIRDS

Certain plants and special feeders are the two ways in which to attract Hummingbirds to you garden. So many homeowners plan their garden to include a combination of plants that attract them and the feeders too. So here are some ideas on ways you can go about attracting them to your garden.

Hummingbirds are attracted by bright colors, not by scent. Nectar and small insects like aphid, mites, gnats, fruit flies, and small spiders are their main food source. (Many of the brighter colored plants are the ones that have nectar in them.) Likewise, almost all Hummingbird feeders have some red in them, because of this bird's attraction to the bright color.

PLANTS THAT ATTRACT HUMMINGBIRDS

Probably the most popular plants used to attract them are:

ANNUALS: Fuchsias; Snapdragons; summer Geraniums and Cosmos.

PERENNIALS: Lupines; Penstemons; Daylilies; Bearded Iris; Sweet William (Biennial); Bee balm and Hollyhocks.

SHRUBS: Butterfly Bush; Weigela, Mollis Azaleas; Quince and BeautyBush.

VINES: Honeysuckle; Trumpet vine and the annual Scarlet Runner beans.

FEEDERS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS

Hummingbirds need to feed several times an hour to maintain their high energy levels. Thus, they need access to their major natural food, a sugar-based, nectar-like solution. This is where a feeder can be used to help attract them to your garden. Here are a few hints on how to properly maintain Hummingbird feeders:

Mitchell Ericson of Perky-Pet Products, the world's largest manufacturer of Hummingbird feeders, makes these suggestions for placing and using feeders:

1) Place the feeder in a lightly shaded area, as this helps keep the nectar solution fresher. Hot sites expand air in the feeders and increase dripping problems. Hot sun also encourages the chances of fermentation of the nectar, which is undesirable.

2) Place the feeder in a spot where cats and squirrels will not be a potential problem. Yet, the feeder should be near branches or other roosts, allowing them to perch and see what's going on around them.

3) Change the solution every 3 to 4 days, particularly during warm weather. Wash feeders regularly. Keep extra nectar solution refrigerated to eliminate possible fermentation.

4) Set feeders out early in the spring and leave them in place until late fall, or until no visitors have appeared for 7 - 10 days. In some areas, such as the northwest, some species of Hummingbirds will remain all winter, so continue to leave the feeder in place and provide food for them. Late season feeding will not deter their normal migration patterns.

5) Commercial Hummingbird nectars come in dry packets that only require the addition of normal tap water. In addition, some brands contain added vitamins and minerals and come in a variety of flavors, such as strawberry.

6) They can live for 10 - 12 years and, following the same migration patterns will remember the location of last year's feeders.

There is a wonderful book 'Attracting Birds, Butterflies &

Other Winged Wonders to Your Backyard' by Kris Wetherbee, the publisher is Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. It has some great ideas and diagrams of how to build features for winged creatures, which would make an attractive addition to any garden. Plant lists and cultural hints are also most informative.

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