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Watching hummingbirds flit from flower to flower can be fun and fascinating for many. Gardeners have long enjoyed the challenge of creating an environment that beckons and welcomes hummingbirds. Flowers are the key to attracting hummingbirds. These birds need food, water, shelter, shade, and security.
Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures for many reasons. They often have feathers in bright colors, and move so quickly that the iridescent colors seem to catch and reflect the sunlight. Hummingbirds can fly in any direction, including backwards, beating their wings up to 80 beats per minute. As they hover in midair, they can drink nectar from flowers through their long beaks. Because hummingbirds dart and fly so fast, they expend excessive amounts of energy. This makes it necessary for them to eat at least half their body weight every day to replace their expended calories. Generally, hummingbirds spend their waking hours eating, possibly visiting more than 1,000 flowers each day. The tiniest hummingbird is the bee hummingbird, which weighs less than one ounce and is only two inches long. The ruby-throated hummingbird is usually three to four inches long, and weighs less than 0.2 ounces. Hummingbirds generally migrate each autumn to winter in Mexico or Central America. This migration involves a nonstop flight of 600 miles as the birds cross over the Gulf of Mexico. Hummingbirds usually spend the latter half of the summer eating to prepare for migration. Then, in the spring, they return north when the flowering shrubs and plants bloom once again.
To attract hummingbirds, it is important to create an environment that will provide for their needs. Planting vines, dwarf trees, and flowering shrubs is an ideal way to create a sheltered area. Try to make the border around the environment at least 10 feet tall for optimal protection. Within the area, position the plants so hummingbirds will have enough space to fly easily from plant to plant. Hummingbirds also need water, so provide a bird bath with moving water, perhaps a fountain or a sprinkler within the bird bath. Because hummingbirds don't have a strong sense of smell, they rely on bright colors to find food. Brightly colored flowers in red are popular among hummingbirds. Try planting perennials such as columbines, daylilies, and lupines. For annuals, choose impatiens and petunias. When browsing biennials, look for hollyhocks and foxgloves.
You can also buy and fill special hummingbird feeders. Most yards are large enough to need two hummingbird feeders with multiple feeding ports at each one. Find spots for your feeders that are out of direct sunlight, so your sugar solution doesn't spoil. The more feeders you maintain, the more hummingbirds you're likely to attract. Fill your feeder with homemade nectar made of four parts water and one part white sugar. Avoid using premade solutions or mixes that contain red dye, because some experts worry that the red dye may be harmful to hummingbirds. Don't use honey in your hummingbird feeder, either. Honey can attract both bacteria and fungi, which could be dangerous for hummingbirds. If your hummingbird feeder doesn't have red pieces, try attaching a red label or sticker to it to attract hummingbirds. When you keep a hummingbird feeder in your yard, change the sugar water every two to three days to make sure it's fresh. You'll also need to wash out the feeder thoroughly to make sure mold and bacteria don't develop in and on it.
If you are planning a flower garden, look for a variety of flowers to plant. Adding bright orange and red flowers is a great way to encourage hummingbirds to visit your yard. The good news is that when you plant flowers to attract hummingbirds, you will also attract other pollinators to your garden. Expect to see bees and butterflies at your flowers as well.
Some of the most popular flowers to attract hummingbirds include: