Hummingbirds and Gardening for Them
How to Create a Hummingbird Garden and Information About Hummingbirds
Who wouldn't want to attract hummingbirds to their yard? Hummingbird feeders will help bring them into view, but to sustain them it is necessary to provide nectar plants for them. Planting a Hummingbird Garden full of nectar rich flowering plants will also attract butterflies and other pollinators. The following recommended plants will do well in the Lower Gulf Coast region where the weather is hot and humid, but since many are native to the U.S., will grow well in other parts of the country, too.
Please use the table of contents to quickly visit a particular part of this lengthy article.
You'll find plenty of information about attracting and feeding hummingbirds as well as about the breeding cycle and migration habits. There are many photographs of those beautiful flying jewels and the plants that they love, too. You'll even find something about hummingbird moths and festivals here.
All photographs are the property of Al and Y.L. Bordelon - All rights reserved
Male Ruby-Throated Bugging
Hummingbirds are marvelous and interesting little creatures.
We never tire of watching their antics. The Hummingbird.net lists 17 species of hummingbirds in the United States. The largest on the list is the Blue-throated weighing in at 8.4 g for the male and 6.8 g for the female. The second largest (and some people think it's a tie) is the Magnificent Hummingbird weighing in at 7.7 g for the male and 6.4 g for the female. The smallest is the Calliope Hummingbird weighing in at 2.5 g for the male and 2.83 g for the female.
The most common hummingbird in Louisiana and most of the Eastern United States is the Ruby-throated. It is a medium sized bird measuring 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) long and weighing about 1/8 ounce (3.1 g). These are the only hummingbirds that breed in the Eastern United States.
Male Taking Flight
Hummingbird nests are tiny, about the size of half a walnut and are very well camouflaged with lichen, spider webs and plant down. The female builds the nest on a branch of a small tree, very often over or near a body of water. She rears the young all by herself, while the male does important stuff like defending his favorite patch of flowers or feeder.
In Louisiana we begin seeing the first fledglings in early June. They are as big as the parents (bigger than the male who is the smaller of the pair). You can tell fledglings from the adults by the way they act and also by the yellow "gape" on the corner of their mouth. All the immature hummingbirds look like the female, but the young males have a "5 o'clock shadow" like stippling on their throat and often a few red feathers will also be present. Soon the young males are staking out their own territory containing a patch of their favorite flowers or feeder.
Immature Male Ruby-Throated
These and most of the other hummingbird photos that you see on this page are available in our Naturally Native Gallery on Zazzle. Just click on the photo to take you there.
The adult males are the first to leave in late summer on their trip to their wintering grounds in Central America. The females and the immature birds leave later and by October most of the North American Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have left N.A.
Mizell's Butterfly and Hummingbird Extravaganza
Each September, on the Saturday after Labor Day, Mizell Farms welcomes butterfly and hummingbird lovers to their nursery for the annual Butterfly and Hummingbird Festival. This is the peak time for the fall migration of our Ruby-throated hummingbirds and a time when the butterflies are plentiful. Events include speakers, hummingbird banding, visiting the butterfly house, touring the nature trail, plant related activities for the children, a butterfly release, food and several booths operated by local vendors. The festival is a great "one tank" family trip for anyone who lives in the Gulf South.
For more information about this fun, family festival in Folsom, LA visit our Mizell's Butterfly and Hummingbird Extravaganza lens.
Hummingbird Nest from Egg to Fledging
Hummingbird Moth on Wild Bergamot
Hummingbird Moth on Pickerel Weed
Is It a Baby Hummingbird or a Moth?
One may think there's a tiny little baby hummingbird flying among the flowers, but more than likely it's a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. This moth will feed during the day and it's shape, coloration and scaleless wings give it the appearance of a small hummingbird. There are two common varieties of this attractive and interesting member of the Sphinx moth family.
The two types of North American Hummingbird Moths are very hard to tell apart. One type is the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, which (as you can tell by its name) resembles a small hummingbird. The other is the Snowberry Clearwing Moth which actually looks more like a large bumblebee, than a hummingbird. The ranges of both species overlap quite a bit, so you can have both in a given location.
Here are a couple of photos of the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth by naturegirl7:
Winter Hummingbirds in the South
Rufous Female Hummingbird by naturegirl7
Not all hummingbirds migrate all the way to Central America. In Louisiana and in other states along the Gulf Coast, western species of hummingbirds like Rufous, Allens, Calliope, Buff-bellied, Black-chinned, Anna's and an occasional immature Ruby-throat spend the winter. We call these our "winter hummingbirds". We leave our feeders up all year long and some of the plants that we have in our garden are planted especially for these little visitors.
From August through the winter months, the hummingbird lists are buzzing with sightings of "winter" hummingbirds in people's yards. A hummingbird that stays after November 15 is officially counted as a winter hummingbird. There is even a tally kept of the first observed and the last observed sightings.
Some hummingbird gardeners go to great lengths to accommodate their winter visitors and have been known to construct "greenhouses" of plastic on a large roll that can be rolled out over the blooming plants when a freeze warning is out and then rolled back up when the freeze is over. We plant winter hummer plants close to the house and in protected areas and we also enclose a little carport on the south side of the house in plastic that can be raised or lowered depending on the temperature. Yes, we love our hummers.
Hummingbirds drink nectar from plants, but they also get a lot of nutrition from the tiny insects that they eat, especially during breeding season. Flowering and fruiting plants, like Pear trees, can attract these tiny insects. Putting out banana peels or starting a compost pile are other easy ways to provide tiny insects for hummingbirds. Misting water features that wet the leaves of nearby plants will also provide moist places that both tiny insects and hummers like.
Hummingbird feeders come in all shapes and sizes and have plenty of red parts to attract hummers. It is unnecessary and may even be harmful to add red food coloring to the sugar water solution. The premixed varieties that you buy in the store are more expensive and most have harmful, red coloring added.
It is much better all around to mix your own "hummingbird juice" using a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part white, granulated sugar. It does not have to be boiled. We just use tap water and mix it in a large measuring cup, then pour it right into the feeders with no mess.
Hummer juice can ferment and the feeders should be refilled each week (sooner during hot weather). Feeders should be cleaned with a mild chlorine bleach solution when they start to look cloudy or moldy. Don't soak the plastic or metal parts more than an hour or they will become brittle or corroded. Rinse well after soaking. There are also special brushes on the market if you feel the need to get them REALLY clean, but keep in mind that as soon as the first little flying jewel sticks its tongue in, bacteria has been introduced. Such is the way of nature.
Migration Oil Painting
And the humming-bird that hung
Like a jewel up among
The tilted honeysuckle horns
They mesmerized and swung
In the palpitating air,
Drowsed with odors strange and rare.
And, with whispered laughter, slipped away
And let him hanging there.
James Whitcomb Riley
from The South Wind and the Sun
Perky Pet 8 oz. Feeder
This is the feeder that we use the most. In fact we have about 20 of them. The parts are interchangeable, so when one breaks, you can cannibalize it. During breeding season, the 8 oz. capacity is enough, but during migration, we more up to the larger sizes.
by Fiona McKimmy
Came the spring, I picked a corner and
set my mind to making a flower
garden in the midst of this mass of
weeds unattended through
Winters toughening of the soil.
I tilled, and pulled, and turned, and broke, and bled...
The soil was perfect now...
But, alas! The puppy was fervent in her efforts to help me dig!
So I cut, and I sawed, and I nailed,
and created the most beautiful little picket fence with a gate.....
and planted a tree......
and planted my flowers...
and tended and watered and weeded
and nurtured all through the Spring and Summer months....
To this day, this perfect Autumn morning,
while standing in my doorway,
sipping that first cup of coffee....
I saw the fast-beating wings of that little faerie,
flitting from flower to flower...
was all worth it in that one moment.
Hummingbirds by the Pond Oil Painting
Nectar Plants to Grow - In the Hummingbird Garden
Gardening for Hummers
Red-Violet Louisiana Iris by naturegirl7
Our garden is an old fashioned garden that contains very few of the new hybrid plant varieties. We choose to sing the song of the lazy gardener so we stick to natives and easy to grow heirloom plants. Perennials and self-sowing annuals planted in mass predominate among the foundation of trees and shrubs. Plants are chosen for their high nectar content and tubular flowers so that both hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the garden.
Small Red Morning Glory
By using plants that are acclimated to our climate, the use of pesticides is unnecessary. In fact, pesticides, and herbicides are strongly discouraged. Instead organic and sustainable gardening techniques are used that take advantage of the natural cycle of life. During the spring and summer breeding ruby throats build their walnut sized nests along tree-lined waterways. At summer's end fall migration begins bringing thousands of hummingbirds through our area on their way south.
Ruby-throat Joy Postcard by naturegirl7
The following easy to grow plants will provide nectar for both hummers and butterflies from spring to fall. Pesticide free specimens of most of these can be found locally at nurseries, however, some are pass along plants that you may have to get from a friend.
Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)deciduous tree, full sun or under story, blooms early summer.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) - native deciduous, sun to part sun, blooms in very early spring
Redbud (Cercis canadensis) - deciduous native tree, full sun or understory, blooms early spring.
Taiwan Cherry Blossoms
Taiwan Cherry Tree (Prunus spp.) - imported small deciduous tree, sun to part sun, blooms magenta colored flowers in very early spring
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) - native large shrub or small tree, deciduous, part sun-shade, blooms in winter
Native Honeysuckle Azalea
Azalea, Native - native shrub, part sun, deciduous, sweet smelling, blooms in spring
Blueberry, Wild & Cultivated, Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) - native, semi-evergreen, sun to part sun, blooms in very early spring
Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea) - native shrub, full sun, winter die back, blooms in mid spring
Red Hybrid Abutilon
Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictum, A. hybrididum) - shrub, partial shade, blooms spring - fall
Mexican Cigar (Cuphea micropetala) - small shrub, some winter die back, full sun, blooms spring - fall
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) - large shrub / small tree, full sun, blooms in summer
Sasanqua (Camellia sasanqua) - imported evergreen shrub to small tree, part sun, blooms in fall
Winter Shrimp Plant
Turk's Cap and Sulfur Butterfly
Texas Star Hibiscus
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) - imported, passalong weeping shrub, evergreen in warm climates, part sun to sun, blooms winter to early spring
Blue Jamaican Vervain
Coral Jamaican Vervain
This is one of the best books about how to create a garden for hummingbirds. It gives insight into the life of these tiny jewels. Pages of plant charts noting the regions in which these plants grow are extremely useful in planning the garden.
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) - perennial, full sun/part shade, blooms spring and fall
Trumpet Vine - native, full sun, blooms spring-summer, spreads rapidly and can be invasive
Perennials and Annuals
With wings spun of silver and hearts of gold,
These tiny creatures our hearts behold.
With angelic features and colors so bright,
Make even the heaviest heart seem light.
The magical way they flit through the sky,
They appear, then vanish in the blink of an eye.
They're sending a message for us to retrieve,
Anything's possible for those who believe!
The Wildlife Gardener's Guide to Hummingbirds and Songbirds..
The authors of this useful book are all hummingbird gardeners and most are scientists. This is a good companion book for Hummingbird Gardening.
With quivering wings like shielding gauze outspread.
Ednah Proctor Clarke (Hayes) from Humming-Bird
Hummingbirds of North America The Photographic Guide
This is my favorite identification book, especially for winter hummingbirds. The photos are outstanding and the information complete showing each species in different life stages.
by Charlotte Smith
Minutest of the feathered kind,
Possessing every charm combined,
Nature, in forming thee, designed
A proof within how little space
She can comprise such perfect grace,
Rendering the lovely; fairy race
Hummingbird YouTube vids
Ode to a Hummingbird
by Laurence Overmire
Light shot through diaphanous wing
Fifty beats per second
Its long beak dipped in the flower of
Life's sweet nectar
Too fleet to see without an informative eye
A blur in the green gasp of forest needles
Yet when spied, delight
The happenstance of cat's catching
Fate's vivid colors dancing
In the rainbow shade
'Twixt day and night.
Hummingbird Bathing Vid
A flash of harmless lightning,
A mist of rainbow dyes,
The burnished sunbeams brightening
From flower to flower he flies.
John Banister Tabb from Hummingbird
Costa Rican Hummingbirds
If you want to see a variety of the most beautiful hummingbirds in the world, then Costa Rica is the place for you. Besides hummingbirds, many of the neotropical song birds that we see in spring and summer, spend the winter there in the warm tropical rain forests and Mangrove swamps of Central America.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the places to visit. It is called a cloud forest rather than a rain forest because it is so high that the clouds go through the forest. The canopy is extremely rich with birds, insects, butterflies, and thousands of plants. Another winner is the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve which features great views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. It has habitat and wildlife similar to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, but is more pristine because of its higher elevation.
Costa Rican Wildlife Books
Wonderful pictures and information about the flying jewels of Costa Rica. If you can't afford a trip to this magical place, this book may sate your interests for the time being.
Little Imp Abutilon Flowers
More About Hummers
- Winged Jewels - Hummingbirds of Winter
Many western hummingbird species spend the winter in Louisiana. Here you'll find info and photos of Rufous, Allen's, Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, Calliope and Buff-bellied that wintered in our yard.
- Banding a Hummingbird
This is a pictorial glimpse into the life of a Rufous hummingbird who arrived before Thanksgiving in Louisiana, was captured, banded and released in February, 2010. A quiz is also included.
© 2008 Yvonne L B