Nothing brightens up a garden like a hummingbird. I feel lucky when I see these tiny beauties sipping nectar from plants or having a snack at the hummingbird feeder.
Its not too late to create an appropriate habitat this year. Plant some of their favorite blooms and hang a feeder out, then sit back and enjoy their daily visits.
Although there are more than 300 types of hummingbirds, we have only one type, the ruby-throated hummingbird, in the eastern half of North America (which includes Indiana).
Hummingbirds expend a lot of energy. They can beat their wings up to 80 times a second during normal flight and up to 200 times per second during a courtship dive. Hummingbirds have a heart rate that can reach up to 1,200 beats per minute.
With all this movement, hummingbirds need to eat more than their weight in food each day. So how can you help hummingbirds fulfill their food needs when they eat about every 10 minutes?
Hummingbirds feed on plant nectar, a sweet, sugary substance that flowers produce to attract pollinators. Thanks to their elongated bills and long, forked tongues, hummingbirds can sip nectar from tubular flowers.
Also, hummingbirds rely on insects and pollen to provide protein.
If you want to make sure youll see hummingbirds this year, get a hummingbird feeder. They are inexpensive, and this time of year, you can find sales at most garden centers.
You can fill feeders with homemade nectar by combining one part sugar with four parts water. I use one-half cup sugar and 2 cups water to fill my feeder.
Heat the water, dissolve the sugar and then let the mixture come to room temperature before filling the feeder. Make sure your feeder is clean, and rinse it out each time you refill it. In the summer, do this about every two to four days.
Dont let the solution get cloudy. Never use honey, which promotes the growth of harmful bacteria. Also, avoid artificial sweeteners and red food coloring.
While hummers are visiting your yard, they check out the rest of the plants as they travel from flower to flower to search of nectar. If you create the optimal habitat, including shelter with native trees and shrubs and water sources, hummingbirds will return many times each day from spring into early fall.
Planting native perennial plants such as bee balm (Monarda species) and native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) will help to provide an environment that hummingbirds prefer. Avoid planting the exotic species Japanese honeysuckle.
You can plant colorful annuals to attract hummingbirds. While they favor red tubular varieties, they visit other types of annuals as well. Some suitable annuals include various salvia species, fuchsia, impatiens, petunia, nasturtium, nicotiana, begonia, geranium, hibiscus and lantana.
To better attract these birds, avoid using pesticides. Spiders and insects such as mosquitoes, aphids and gnats are an important part of an adult birds diet, and young hummers are fed them almost exclusively. Pesticide residue in or on these food sources can have devastating consequences.
For more information on attracting hummers and other birds, and on creating a safe environment in your backyard, go to the National Audubon Societys website, www.audubonathome.org.