Few Wildlife events are more exciting to watch than Hummingbirds nectaring from plants. If there was a single animal to use as inspiration for native plant conservation, it should be hummingbirds. Their ability to fly backwards, hover, and zip here and there as they feed, and protect their patch of flowers from rivals is amazing.
Hummingbirds live on the brink requiring 1x their body weight a day in nectar. With such a high metabolism, they need to feed often. Nectar provides amino acids and the energy hummingbirds need to chase down insects. Hummingbirds need protein, and a large portion of their diet is soft bodied insects such as gnats, mosquitoes, flies and aphids. Which they hawk out of the sky or glean off plant surfaces. Who doesn’t want less knats, mosquitos, flies and aphids in their landscape?
Hummingbirds have already been used in South, and Central America to promote ecotourism and conservation. There are roughly 350 species of hummingbirds all of which are only found in the Americas. Majority of species are found in South and Central America. 17 species breed annually in the United States and only one of those species the Ruby throated breeds east of the Mississippi. Though vagrants from western species occasionally show up in the Mid-Atlantic.
Hummingbirds require habitats rich in their favorite nectar producing flowers. Native plants have co-evolved with hummingbirds and many depend on them for pollination. Ruby throated hummingbirds arrive in our area in late March or Early April, and by late October all have departed to Central America where they will spend the winter. If you want to host hummingbirds in your landscape a steady supply of nectar the entire season is key. Depending on the available space in your landscape, it is best to spread out clumps of plants in various locations, since individual hummers naturally guard a patch of flowers against rivals. In doing so you will be able to support more hummingbirds with this strategy.
Add a feeder or two close to windows in rooms you frequent, and hummers will come in for close viewing. They will eventually get use to seeing movement in the house and not startle. Red dye is not needed, and because of the amounts hummingbirds consume, it could harm them. A mixture of 1 part pure cane sugar and 4 parts water is recommend. The feeder should be cleaned ever 3 or 4 days with hot, hot water, and refilled with fresh sugar water. If cleaned regularly soap or diluted bleach are not needed to clean the feeders between refills. Use feeders as a supplement and focus on providing natural habit for hummingbirds. Flower nectar has additional nutrients hummingbirds’ need that are not found in sugar water. Their favorite native flowers, ranked from best to good are listed below. Factors such as duration of blooming period and observed hummingbird preferences are factored into the ranking. The straight species or noted cultivars are all recommended.
- Trumpet Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirons ‘Major Wheeler’, ‘Magnifica’, ‘John Clayton’, ‘Cedar Lane’
- Scarlet Sage Salvia coccinea ‘Summer Jewel Red’, ‘Forest Fire’, ‘Lady in Red’, “Summer Jewel Lavender”
- Scarlet Beebalm Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’, ‘Gardenview Scarlet’
- Trumpet Vine Campsis radicans
- Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis ‘Black Truffle’
- Orange Jewelweed Impatiens capensis
- Royal Catchfly Silene regia
- Eastern Red Columbine “Aquilegia canadensis
- Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia
- Crossvine Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’, ’Dragon Lady’
- Rhododendron prunifolium Plumleaf Azalea
- Indian Pink Spigelia marilandica
- Turks Cap Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii ‘Big Momma’
- Fire Pink Silene virginica
- Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata
Let us design your landscape to maximize aesthetics, properly locate plants where their water and sunlight needs are met, and insure your success in attracting hummingbirds.