Spring is here, and so are the hummingbirds. Along with insects, hummingbirds play an important role in pollinating many flowering plants. By providing a friendly hummingbird habitat, you can help keep the hummingbird population from declining.
Anna’s and Rufous hummingbirds are the most common for our area; the Anna’s species will stay year-round and are very appreciative of feeders during the winter, while Rufous hummingbirds will arrive around April and stay through the summer.
Hummingbirds have a very high metabolism and must eat all day to survive; they can visit 1,000-2,000 flowers each day. When a hummingbird feeds on flower nectar, pollen sticks to its head. When it goes to the next flower, it transfers some pollen from its head to that flower. They are attracted to flowers by their color rather than the smell and prefer red, pink, orange, and yellow flowers. Tubular-shaped flowers are the most popular. (Hummingbirds also eat insects, such as mosquitos and gnats.)
If you plan carefully, you can provide food for hummingbirds from spring to fall. Some popular native flowering plants are columbine, grape hyacinth, bee balm, sage, and primroses.
A few years ago, I noticed a hummingbird near my house that stayed well into the fall; I worried about him having enough food to eat as the weather turned cooler. I purchased a hummingbird feeder to supplement natural food sources, which I now keep out year-round. If you choose to have a feeder, be sure to replace the nectar and clean the feeder regularly with hot water so your local hummingbirds do not get sick. The nectar can spoil within a couple of days during the hot summer. During the winter’s freezing temperatures, I wrap a small strand of non-LED Christmas lights around my feeder to keep it from freezing.
Along with nectar from your flowering plants or feeder, you can also provide nesting materials to encourage hummingbirds to nest nearby. I have had great success using a suet feeder packed with dog hair brushed from my husky. Other alternative nesting materials that can be found locally are moss or plant fluff (from cottontails).
By providing the proper habitat and nectar, you can enjoy seeing your local hummingbirds for many years. They are a wonderful addition to any garden or backyard.
Ben Armlin is a Huckleberry Circle resident and community gardener.