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Hummingbirds into your Garden|hummingbird|hummingbird tree|hummingbird feeder|herb garden|hummingbird|hummingbird|hummingbird|herbs|bird


How To: Encourage Hummingbirds into Your Garden

Gardeners and wildlife lovers alike have been captivated by the hummingbird for centuries. And its no wonder why: with their uncanny ability to “flit” in any direction, even backward, beating their wings an impressive average of 80 beats per second, and their iridescent and brightly-colored feathers, hummingbirds are both beautiful and fascinating.

But what steps can you take to encourage these “flying jewels” to visit your garden?

hummingbird Remember: Hummingbirds Love Red Hues

The structure of a hummingbird’s eye is such they have a much higher concentration of cone cells in the retina than the human eye, for example. These cones are also enhanced with red and yellow pigments, which filter the colors that they see, making red appear even brighter. Though hummingbirds have been observed to feed on blue or purple feeders or flowers blooms, reds and oranges are generally preferred.

There is a strong evolutionary basis for this attraction: the brightly-colored, tubular shaped blossoms are known to produce more nectar than their counterparts of different colors, so hummingbirds have come to realize that red means food.

Plants and feeders which are red, yellow or orange have a far better chance of attracting hummingbirds than other colors. However, plants with large red or orange blossoms but little nectar, such as roses, marigolds, and geraniums , may initially attract hummingbirds, but will be quickly abandoned as the levels of nectar produced by these flowers is insufficient. Because of this, plants such as red-hot pokers and sunset hyssop are perfect for attracting hummingbirds to a garden.

Although hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, please do not be tempted to inject red food coloring into the water as this has been known to cause illness from food poisoning and other digestive problems for birds.

When planning your hummingbird garden, try to structure it vertically. Small trees, shrubs and climbing plants, such as honeysuckles and vines provide a perfect tiered space for hummingbirds to feel secure.

Try using trellises, garden sheds, old trees and garden structures, such as arches or pagodas to support climbing plants and place plenty of perches around the shade of your garden, ideally made of wood or old branches with small twigs for tiny hummingbird feet to hold on to.

It doesn’t matter if the space in your garden is limited, with the right selection of flowers you could manage to attract hummingbirds with just a window box and a few flowering tubs and ceramic pots.

Choose your flowers based on plants that are native to the surrounding area, as the local species of hummingbird will have a history and familiarity with the native flora which it will already have established as a reliable source of food. Think about placing clumps of the same plants together to offer more nectar. But be aware when planting, and make sure that you don’t overcrowd the beds and leave enough space between flowers for the hummingbirds to move between blossoms.

If you make sure that there is a secure habitat with shelter, food, and shade, then you should be able to enjoy a garden full of hummingbirds for many years to come. But remember to be patient. You could see hummingbird activity within hours of creating your garden, or it may take days, weeks or even months until a passing hummingbird comes across your garden. But once it has been found, they will continue to visit.


Know Hummingbird Habits

As hummingbirds use a lot of energy, they have to eat once every 10 to 15 minutes and visit between 1000 and 2000 flowers in a day in order to compensate for their lost calories. It makes sense then that if you are offering the best source of food (and plenty of it), then your garden will be a prime location for the local hummingbirds to gather at.

Hummingbirds are traditionally creatures of habit, and once a food source has been found, they will revisit again and again at the same times each year. To maximize visitation to your garden, try planting a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year, thus ensuring a steady flow of nectar throughout peak hummingbird seasons.

Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to soft, fuzzy plants such as cinnamon ferns and dandelions as these offer perfect nest-building supplies. Other soft plants include lamb’s ear, clematis, milkweed, blanket flowers, and pasque flowers.


Plant an Herb Garden

Many herbs attract hummingbirds, and, although of little interest to them as their sense of smell is very poor, have the added bonus of providing you with a beautifully fragrant garden. Plus, think of the dishes that can be enhanced with a dash of sage .

Although the blossoms of many varieties of sage used in cooking attract hummingbirds, pineapple sage ( Salvia elegans ) and hummingbird sage ( Salvia guaranitica ) appear to be the favorites and produce a large quantity of nectar with their four-foot tall red blossoms.

Consider planting hyssop alongside the sage as this too is rich in nectar. Anise hyssop ( Agastache foeniculum ) and sunset hyssop ( Agastache rupestris ) in particular produce beautiful deep orange, vertical blooms that can also attract hummingbirds.


Other Garden Features and Tips

As with all creatures, hummingbirds need water— they especially love moving water such as small fountains or sprinklers and sprays over the traditional bird bath.

While a great amount of importance must be placed on the usefulness of flowers in attracting hummingbirds, it is impossible to ignore the usefulness of artificial bird feeders.

Try not to go for rustic, wooden or dull-looking feeders, as these will be overlooked. Instead, opt for brightly-colored plastic ones or ones that resemble artificial flowers. When placing feeders, a good height for them is four or 10 feet above ground level.

Fill these feeders two-thirds of the way with a clear sugar water solution: one part white sugar to four parts room temperature. Check on your feeders every one and a half to two weeks, topping up with more solution as necessary. Discard old or cloudy sugar water and clean the feeders with a mix of vinegar and water every two weeks. Rinse the feeder our thoroughly with fresh, clean water before refilling.

There is a tendency to believe that it is more beneficial to use organic or raw ingredients, but in this case, it is harmful to use raw sugar. Raw sugar contains high quantities of iron and if a hummingbird eats too much of this sugar, it will die. Only use refined, white cane sugar when mixing the sugar water solution for your feeder.

Take into consideration that the main reason you want hummingbirds in your garden is so that you can see them. Therefore, make sure you can see the feeders clearly from your kitchen window, conservatory, garden room, or wherever you like to do your birdwatching. However, try and keep the feeders spaced out so that the birds cannot see one another.

Additional Plants Favored by Hummingbirds

Although the flowers mentioned above are of particular interest to hummingbirds, they will feed on a variety of nectar-rich plants. Although red is preferred, any brightly-colored bloom will have a degree of success in attracting hummingbirds.

There are many flowers to choose from:

Perennials: columbines, lupines, daylilies, and bee balm

Biennials: foxglove and hollyhocks

Annuals: cleomes, petunias, and impatiens

While beardtongue, butterfly bush, catmint, clove pink, coral bells, and larkspur can be used to attract hummingbirds, they are also a favorite of butterflies, which will also attract hummingbirds as they will follow the brightly-colored wings of a butterfly.

As hummingbirds are also partial to insects and spiders, try to have a good mix of insect-pollinated plants. Again, try to choose blooms native to your area, as these will attract a larger amount of insects than foreign plants.

Avoid using insecticides as hummingbirds get their protein from insects and spiders and feed their young an all-insect diet. Hummingbirds can ingest the poisons in these insecticides when eating the insects, which can cause intestinal upsets.

Also note though Japanese honeysuckle has been used to effectively attract hummingbirds, this exotic species is very invasive and will overcrowd neighboring plants.

Encouraging Nesting

Hummingbirds do not use nesting boxes or hide their nests in tree crevices. Instead, hummingbirds build tiny nests between 10 and 80 feet off the ground, hiding beneath a canopy of leaves and nestled into a fork in the branches. The female uses plant lichen to camouflage the nest, making it look like a bump of moss on a tree branch or just another not on the wood.

Hummingbird nests are very small, no bigger than a quarter, and the female hummingbird lays two or three navy bean-sized eggs per nest. Sometimes she will have more than one next at a time, feeding growing young in one nest while laying eggs in another.

To encourage nesting within your garden, it is best to plant a variety of trees and shrubs at differing heights, and in addition to the fuzzy plants mentioned earlier, consider some leafy trees such as catkin trees, willows, alder, witch hazel, cottonwood, maple, mulberry, ironwood, beech, birch and poplar.

Now that you know a little more about how to improve your garden to get attract some beautiful hummingbirds, don't forget that MONQ helps you to personally become more in tune with the environment through our Feel Nature blends. Whether it's Forest, Mountain, Ocean, or all three, take in the essential oils that will help you feel like you're there!

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