I have been disappointed to see fewer hummingbirds in my yard this year. It’s so frustrating!!! It seems like I only get one female Ruby-throated hummingbird each year, and her name is Frida. We’re getting to know each other but I want more, sorry Frida. I believe I’ve been doing the right things to attract them, but it’s not enough. I wondered if there was a general decline in population, or are they just not coming to my yard?
Hummingbirds are pollinators, and important ones at that. We can thank a pollinator for every third bite of food we eat. Survival of plants depends on birds and bees. Hummingbirds can visit up to 1,000 flowers in a day and that’s a lot of benefit for us and the plants!
My Friend Frida
Like other pollinators, hummingbirds are struggling due to habitat loss and overuse of pesticides. Most hummingbird species are not endangered, but many are experiencing some declines in population.
What can we do?
The best way to help hummingbirds is to provide attractive places for them to visit and feed in our yards and communities. (Not surprising, that is the same prescription for helping butterflies, bees and other pollinators!)
After copious research (see references at the end of this blog), I have learned some valuable tips for attracting hummingbirds. I’m putting them into practice in my yard.
1) Avoid red dyed nectar! Just like for us, the red dye is bad for hummingbirds.
2) Make your own, 1 cup boiled water to 1/4 cup granulated white sugar. I make a large batch, a weeks’ worth, and keep in in the frig.
3) Hang nectar feeders early in the spring (for the males) & leave them up late (for the females and their babies).
4) Use a small feeder, change your nectar every other day, and every day if temperatures are in the 90s.
5) Clean your feeder with soap and again with vinegar, to kill the mold, every time and rinse a few times with hot water.
6) Red! Make sure your hummingbird feeder has a red top and is easy to clean. Plant red flowers and hang red ribbons.
7) Make sure your hummingbird feeder has an ant moat to keep the ants out and is bee proof (avoid yellow around the holes and avoid holes large enough for bees to squeeze through).
8) Hang multiple hummingbird feeders at a good distance from each other, hummers are territorial.
9) Hang a protein/insect feeder.
10) Plant flowering native vines, shrubs, and trees. Add a window box or hanging basket. Look up your native plants at https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/
11) Hummingbirds love trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage, much richer in nectar than cultivars and exotics.
12) Plant natives that offer different flowering throughout the growing season so there’s a steady supply for these little birds.
13) Supply a water source: drip fountain, bird bath, or misting device.
14) Avoid pesticides.
15) Share this information and your success with your neighbors, maybe they will join in on the fun!
I have made some progress on this list, but still need to do more. I have not planted enough blooming plants where there’s continuous blooming throughout the summer. Unfortunately, it takes a year or two for the plants to really become established.
In the spring of 2021, I planted several coral honeysuckle plants and have red geraniums blooming near the bird bath. Additionally, I planted more swamp milkweed, my first common milkweed, cone flowers, golden rod, and some other natives that should be thriving and blooming next year. Next, I will plant shade loving bloomers ground cover such as Columbine. And, in the sunny area, I will plant Salvia Lyrata (Lyre-leaf sage). I’ll also put up a hanging plant filled with Petunias or some natives that will return every year so I don’t have to replant. Hopefully I’ll attract some company for Frida next year (although Frida may not appreciate that).
· Hummingbird will use spiderweb to help make their nests, and eat any spiders they can find. They also eat mosquitos!
· Save your rotting fruit and place near nectar feeder. Hummers will eat the gnats and other bugs that are attracted to the fruit.
· They are the only bird that can fly backwards.
· They are the smallest migrating bird in the world.
· They have incredible spatial memories and can remember where feeders and favorite flowers are located years later.
· They can live up to 9-years.
· As they visit flowers, they pollinate.
· Heart beats can be as fast as 1,260 beats per minute. They eat twice their weight every day.
· The Calliope hummingbird is the smallest long-distance migratory bird, it travels over 5,000 miles each year. The Rufous hummingbird travels over 3,900 miles per year. Ruby-throated hummingbird travels 500-miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico in 18-22 hours.
· Every spring and fall, you can watch the hummingbirds migrate. Visit http://HummingbirdCentral.com to see the map to see if they have reached or left you yet.
· The smallest bird in the world, Bee hummingbird, is about 2-inches long, lays eggs the size of a coffee bean. It’s only located in Cuba and is near threatened due to loss of habitat. They are easily mistaken for the Hummingbird moth.
· Not only do hummers remember their favorite flowers and feeders (and dirty feeders to avoid), they can recognize humans. They will fly up to your face because they are curious little creatures.
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References / Resources