Hummingbirds - Ingredients For a Healthy Habitat
Flowers, insects and water
are three key ingredients to creating an environment your tiny visitors will hum about!
Natural nectar provides hummingbirds with a steady supply of fast energy, and a balanced source of micro-nutrients. It is estimated that hummingbirds need to consume the nectar from between 1000 to 2000 flowers each day, taking up around 1.5 times their body mass in water each day as they feed. Unfortunately, development and sprawl have caused hummingbird-friendly habitat to disappear all across the country and across the birds' migration routes. To help ease the pressure:
- Aim for native plants like trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage, which provide significantly more nectar than cultivated hybrids. Since native plants evolved with your local climate, they generally require a lot less care, too.
- Group similar plants together and choose annuals and perennials with different blooming periods so that there will be a steady supply of flowers nearly year round.
|© Lee Karney USFWS|
- Choose plants that hummingbirds prefer. These are generally odorless with tubular flowers. Red blossoms are especially attractive to them, followed by oranges and pinks, and purples, blues, and yellows.
- Fill your yard with flowering plants, vines, shrubs, and trees. Even a window box or hanging basket can help.
- Beware of exotics like bougainvillea, which only trick hummingbirds into wasting precious energy trying to drink from empty blossoms.
- Encourage your neighbors to make their yards hummingbird friendly, too. An entire corridor of habitat is much more valuable than scattered patches.
- Tell city planners and corporate landowners to plant their property with flowering natives -- often these chunks of land are dominated by mowed lawn.
- Become an informed voter and take action to protect existing habitat in your own community.
Hummingbirds need protein from pollen and insects to maintain their bodies and grow new feathers. Like swifts, hummingbirds have specialized neck muscles that help them take insects from the air. The birds also glean insects from leaves and from spider webs. To maintain a healthy ecosystem in your yard:
- Eliminate pesticides. Spiders and insects like mosquitoes, aphids, and gnats are an important part of an adult bird's diet, and young hummers still in the nest are fed them almost exclusively.
- Make sure your yard contains some insect-pollinated flowers as well as plants that hummingbirds pollinate.
- Provide birds at your feeder with extra protein by hanging a basket with overripe fruit or banana peels nearby to attract tiny fruit flies.
Hummingbirds like to bathe frequently -- even in the pools of droplets that collect on leaves. Provide your yard with a constant source of water from a drip fountain attachment or a fine misting device.
Credits to National Audubon Society