Hummingbirds are a gardeners best friend. They are quite, peaceful visitors to your garden, and their work is extremely important. As they drink the nectar from your flowers, they pick up small quantities of pollen and carry it to the next flower, thus performing the important task of pollination.
They are also one of the most interesting and fascinating creatures on the planet. Their design is unique to other birds. Contrary to what some people think, Hummingbirds do have feet. It's just that their feet are not very functional. Aside from using them to perch, Hummers don't use their feet for much else. Unlike most other birds they do not use their legs to push off when entering into flight. Their sole means of propulsion is the awesome power of their wings.
When in flight they flap their wings at a rate of 50 times per second, and as much as 200 times per second when in a power dive, which is a mating ritual practiced by male Hummers. Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, and they can hover. They have also been known to fly upside down. Hummingbirds are quite relaxed around people because of their ability to hover and fly backwards. They know they can get away quicker than humans can react. They are curious creatures and will often hover right in front of your face studying you.
Their diet is very high in sugar, consisting mainly of nectar and tree sap. They also eat some insects, to add protein to their diet. Their beak is not exactly designed for insect catching so they often prey on insects that move through the air rather slowly and clumsily. They will hover over a plant looking for insects resting on the leaves. When they see one they will tap the leaf with their beak until the insect takes off in flight, often flying right into the mouth of the clever little Hummer.
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Hummingbirds feed throughout the day, at intervals as often as every eight to twelve minutes. They need to consume almost two thirds of their body weight in food each day.
Follow these guidelines to attract Hummingbirds to your yard and gardens. Place your feeder in a relatively quite location. Especially when you are first trying to attract them to your garden. Once you have them coming around on a regular basis you can move the feeder closer to where you are so you can enjoy them. They love bright colors such as reds and oranges. Most commercial feeders are made of brilliant red plastic, this helps to get the Hummers attention.
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It is also helpful to plant red and orange flowers in the area. Although flowers with trumpet shaped blooms are usually recommended, we had many Hummingbirds feeding from our impatiens.
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You can make your own food by boiling water and mixing one part sugar to four parts water. You shouldn't add food coloring to your homemade brew. The feeder you use should be bright orange or red in color, and if you have some colorful flowers in the general area of the feeder the Hummers will come.
It is also a good idea to have at least two or more feeders in your yard. Space them out if possible. I have one in the front yard near the front porch, and one in the back near the patio and waterfall. Hummers are territorial and will perch in a tree and stand guard over a good food source, running off any competition. By having at least two feeders, in different areas of the yard, it will be difficult for just one Hummer to guard them both.
There are mixed opinions about when you should take your feeders down for the season. Some people believe that if you leave them up too long you might encourage the Hummers stay up north longer than they should, and then have them die if an early winter storm hits. Many experts claim this is not the case. They feel that the Hummers will know when to move on, and that you should continue to feed them until they quit coming around. I tend to believe the latter. One day you have them, and all of a sudden they are gone. My dad usually reports that his Hummers disappear at about the same time as ours. I think they just know. Nature's like that.
Hummingbirds are quite intelligent and will remember a good food source from one season to the next. So if you are a gracious host, they will come back to visit you again!
Enjoy them! We sure do.