Gardening with wildlife: Attracting hummingbirds
By Mirna Santana
Over 300 species of hummingbirds live in the Americas. Between 20 to 25 species can be observed within the US territory. Most species are migrants, the majority of them are found in the Southwest.
To attract hummingbirds you can plant native and other non-native garden species that provide food, and an appropriate habitat for them. For non-native species please verify that your plants are not recorded as invasive species by your local Dept. of Natural Resources.
Ideal habitats for hummingbirds include sunny and shady patches. Their optimal habits will also include a constant supply of nectar from flowers as well as opportunities for them to feed on insects or arthropods, i.e., worms-and the possibility for nesting places. Habitats may be wild, or it may be a backyard, an organic garden, or a patch of trees and shrubs. Orchards and patches of vegetation along streams and rivers are also good resting places for hummingbirds. Urban and rural landscapes serve as refugia and replenishing places for hummingbirds during their migrations. In addition, a garden that provides nesting opportunities for hummingbirds may also guarantee the most amazing experiences for a hummingbird fans.
What types of flowers would you need to attract hummingbirds? Tubular flowers are the favorites of hummingbirds. Among those flowers, they are particularly attracted to red flowers. A welcoming habitat for hummingbirds contains a variety of plants that produce flowers over long periods or in sequence. This ensures that food is always available for these birds. Some hummingbirds are specialized in tubular flowers, which have evolved to favor hummingbirds as pollinators. Those specialized flowers are also visited by other animals that seek their nectar such as other pollinators (bees, butterflies), ants, and even mammals. These animals compete with hummingbirds for food resources.
Insecticide free habitats are a must for hummingbirds, because, these high energy demanding birds require insects as part of their diet. Pesticides as we learned from Rachel Carson in Silent Spring, may propagate in the food chain potentially poisoning some birds or even killing them.
Below is a list of plants you can use in your garden. Your local Audubon Chapter and the Department of Natural Resources in your region may also provide suggestions for hummingbird friendly plants that grow well in your region.
Begonias, bee balm, gay feather, hibiscus, snapdragon, lilies, cardinal flower, petunias,salvia, phlox, trumpet vine,zinnias,gladiolus, marigolds, gentiana, coral bells, and yuccas are good choices for the hummingbird garden. Happy planting and hummingbird watching!
Creating Habitats and Homes for Illinois Wildlife by D. S. Newman and others. IL DNR
Gardening with Wildlife by various authors. National Wildlife Federation
Attracting Birds and Butterflies by Barbara Ellis
Wintu Audubon Society http://www.wintuaudubon.org/Documents/feeding_hummingbirds.htm
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources