Hummingbirds in the Garden
Every spring, birdwatchers across the country welcome the return of hummingbirds as they migrate north. These tiny, beautiful birds are a delight to watch as they hover and dart throughout the garden, and the males put on quite a show as they protect their territory and attract mates. And while hummingbird feeders do provide nourishment to the energetic birds, let's face it – an active feeder is a source of pure pleasure for gardeners and bird-lovers alike.Posted — Updated
Every spring, birdwatchers across the country welcome the return of hummingbirds as they migrate north. These tiny, beautiful birds are a delight to watch as they hover and dart throughout the garden, and the males put on quite a show as they protect their territory and attract mates. And while hummingbird feeders do provide nourishment to the energetic birds, let's face it – an active feeder is a source of pure pleasure for gardeners and bird-lovers alike.
Look for hummingbird nests in trees and shrubs that provide shelter from weather and predators such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, wax myrtle, hollies, oaks (especially live oaks), pines, red maple, and sycamore. They may be near the tips of branches, with overhead leaf protection but space for cooling summer breezes. Although less common, look for nests on porches and other sheltered spots as well.
There are many different types of hummingbird feeders on the market, and some are quite beautiful. Most come in bright colors to mimic large, nectar-rich flowers. The key to feeding hummingbirds is safety – nectar spoils easily, and bacteria can be dangerous for the birds. Choose a feeder that is easy to refill and clean, or two
To discourage spoilage and mold growth, boil the sugar solution for several minutes, and allow it to cool to room temperature before using. Store any excess in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Immediately discard any solution that looks cloudy or has black mold.
Hang the feeder near flowering plants or next to trees where the birds may build their nests. Once a bird has found your feeder, it will return for frequent visits and become quite bold, so get your camera ready!
When planning a hummingbird garden, consider including the following elements:
- Water for bathing and drinking, such as a birdbath or fountain.
- Space between flowering plants to give the birds room to hover.
- An organic garden free of pesticides which can be toxic to hummingbirds.
- Leafy shrubs for cover and nesting.
- Flowering plants for feeding.
- Lots of bright colors, particularly red.
- Mosses for nesting materials.
Some flowering plants to consider include:
- Bee balm – Monarda didyma
- Canna - Canna sp.
- Cardinal flower - Lobelia cardinalis
- Columbine - Aquilegia sp.
- Coral bells - Heuchera sanguinea
- Delphinium - Delphinium elatum
- Flame acanthus - Acanthus mollis
- Four o'clock - Mirabilis jalapa
- Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea
- Fuschia - Fuschia hybrida
- Hibiscus – Hibiscus sp.
- Hollyhock - Althea rosea
- Honeysuckle - Lonicera sp.
- Lantana - Lantana sp.
- Lupine - Lupinus hybrids
- Penstemon - Penstemon sp.
- Petunia - Petunia hybrida
- Trumpet creeper - Campsis radicans
- Trumpet vine - Bignonia tagliabuana
Also consider planting shrubs and trees such as:
- Azalea - Rhododendron sp.
- Bottlebrush - Callistemon lanceolatus
- Butterfly bush - Buddleia davidii
- Eucalyptus - Eucalyptus sp.
- Flowering quince - Chaenomeles sp.
- Mimosa - Albizia julibrissin
- Weigela - Weigela rosea
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