Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the tiniest of birds — measuring 3 to 3.5 inches long — with iridescent feathers. Males have a black throat patch, which reflects bright ruby red in the sun and during aerobatic movements. Ruby-throated hummingbirds began migrating to our area in early spring.
If your feeder is not already out, now is a great time to place it in your yard. You don’t have to limit yourself to one feeder — you can put out multiple. Just be certain to keep the feeders filled with fresh nectar. When placing feeder stations, keep them close to plants and away from other bird feeders. Hummingbirds are very territorial.
In conjunction with the hummingbird feeders, there are an array of plants that can provide a habitat, giving hummingbirds shelter, food, shade and security. Plant flowers, shrubs, vines, perennials, biennials and annuals. You want something blooming all season long, to provide the nectar and insects hummingbirds need to maintain energy levels.
Great options include:
• Perennials — bee balm, salvia, columbine, butterfly bush, coral bell, daylilies, hibiscus, cardinal flower, Turks cap hibiscus, red-hot poker, verbena and weigela.
• Biennials — foxgloves and hollyhocks.
• Annuals — four o’clocks, cleomes, impatiens, lantanas and petunias.
• Vines — native honeysuckle, crossvine, scarlet runner-bean, canary creeper and purple passion flower.
Bright, tubular flowers hold the most nectar, as well as attract soft-shelled insects — a bonus feast for our tiny, feathered friends. If you plant in tiers, with plenty of room, the birds can hover from one plant to another. Before you start planting, contact the Cherokee County Extension Office, 770-721-7803, to get the acidity of your soil tested.
A hummingbird’s vision is excellent. Bright colors, such as red, orange and yellow, can be seen from long distances. Once they discover your garden, they will partake in flowers of other colors, as well. To attract hummingbirds to a newly planted garden, hang red ribbons in different locations. Or, just wear red when working in your garden — but, beware, you may get hummed!
If you want to treat your children, grandchildren or yourself, mark your calendar to visit a local garden, such as Smith-Gilbert in Kennesaw, to attend a hummingbird banding event. (Check smithgilbertgardens.com to see when the garden’s banding event will be held.) Local bird supply stores may have information on other banding events and locations.
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
When first attracting hummingbirds, use one part sugar (by volume) to two parts water. Once you have attracted the hummingbirds, switch to a weaker solution — one part sugar to four parts water. Boil the water, add sugar, stir, cool and fill your feeders. Refrigerate the remaining nectar.
Did You Know?
Hummingbirds must eat at least half of their body weight each day to replace the approximate 12,000 calories they burn. This means they need to eat from sunrise to sunset, visiting at least 1,000 flowers every day. As such, it is important to provide hummingbird feeding stations when there are not enough flowers to supplement their daily calorie intake.
– Sue Allen inherited her passion for gardening from her grandmother, who taught her to designate areas of her yard for nature, providing shelter, food and water.