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How to Create a Habitat for Hummingbirds  RSS feed

 
master steward
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About 6 or 7 months ago:

paul wheaton wrote: We've created a lot of new forums recently that don't have enough content.  So, maybe we should set up some rules for creating a new forum:

2:  the person suggesting it will create at least three new threads that don't already exist on permies."




paul wheaton wrote:  And then a list for #2?  "



Here is my list for the #2 list:

Anne Miller wrote:  

"Please Help by Sharing What You Do to Help Our Pollinators"
"How is Pollination Accomplished by Birds"
"How to Create a Habitat for Hummingbirds"  



Then this happened  

Anne Miller wrote: "Unfortunately, I have had a project come up that is requiring all of my time now.  "




I am now able to post this thread:   "How to Create a Habitat for Hummingbirds"

https://permies.com/t/61481/Suggestion-forum-Pollinators

Hummingbirds are truly remarkable and fascinating creatures. A diverse family, hummingbirds include the world's smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba, and some of the strongest migrants. The Rufous Hummingbird, if based upon distance traveled in proportion to body size, undertakes the longest avian migration in the world. To sustain their supercharged metabolisms, hummingbirds must eat once every 10 to 15 minutes and visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers per day.

Here are some of the most commonly reported native plants used by Hummingbirds:  

   Beebalm, Wild bergamot, Horsemint, Monarda fistulosa  - Native in southwest, Pacific northwest, mountain west, southeast, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
   Lemon beebalm, Monarda citriodora - Native to California, southwest and southeast sections of the U.S.
   Scarlet beebalm, Monarda didyma -Native to the Pacific northwest, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
   Spotted beebalm, Monarda punctata  - Native to California, New Mexico, Texas, southeast, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
   Coral honeysuckle, also known as Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens - Native to the southeast, east and mid-west sections of the U.S. .
   Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis - Native to California, the southwest, southeast, east and mid-west sections of the country

Sages
   Scarlet sage, Salvia coccinea  - Native to the southeast U.S.
   Lemmon's sage, Salvia lemmonii - Native to the southwest U.S.
   Gregg sage, Salvia greggii - Native to Texas
   Pitcher sage/Hummingbird sage, Salvia spathacea  - Native to California

You can attract, feed and nourish hummingbirds in your backyard with a few easy steps. Flowers, perches, insects, and water are the key ingredients to a healthy yard that will attract these amazing jewels.
Hummingbirds are specialized for nectar-eating, evident by long bills and grooved tongues ideal for probing flowers. Sugary nectar supplies fast energy and makes up 90 percent of a hummingbird's diet. Unfortunately, due to development and climate change, hummingbird-friendly habitat may be changing across many hummingbird migration routes. You can create a healthy environment for hummingbirds with these steps:

   Fill your yard with native flowering plants, vines, shrubs, and trees. Even a window box or hanging basket can help.
   Grow native plants like trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage, which provide much more nectar than hybrids and exotics.
   Plant native red or orange tubular flowers to attract hummingbirds, in addition to native plants rich in nectar.
   Group similar plants together and choose species with different blooming periods so that there will be a steady supply of flowers nearly year round.
   Leave some sticks and small branches on bushes and trees to enable ready perches for hummingbirds.
   Minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard.
   Encourage your neighbors to make their yards hummingbird friendly. An entire corridor of habitat is much more valuable than scattered patches.

Planting for nesting hummingbirds

Hummingbirds prefer to nest near a ready supply of nectar and other food, and you can encourage them to nest in your yard by maintaining some shrubbery and small deciduous trees in which they can seek protective cover, especially around the edges of your yard.  They build their tiny, expandable nests on tree limbs and other small horizontal surfaces, often constructing them from lichens and spider webs.

Perches

Make sure you have plenty of safe places for hummingbirds to rest and sleep in your yard.  Hummingbirds often perch to rest or survey their territory; some spots should be in the open and obvious for territorial birds, while others should be in protected areas, hidden from view and buffered from any cooler overnight temperatures.

Insects  

Hummingbirds need protein from pollen and insects to maintain their bodies and grow new feathers. Like swifts, hummingbirds are specialized aerial hunters, and can snatch small insects from the air. Hummingbirds also glean insects from leaves and from spider webs. To maintain a healthy ecosystem in your yard:

   Eliminate pesticides.  Spiders and insects (arthropods) are an important part of an adult bird's diet, and young hummingbirds still in the nest are almost exclusively fed arthropods.
   Make sure your yard contains insect-pollinated flowers as well as hummingbird-pollinated plants.
   Hang a basket with overripe fruit or banana peels close to a hummingbird feeder to attract tiny fruit flies.
   Research has shown that ecosystems with a high percentage of native plants will produce a higher volume of nectar than exotic plantings, and thus support a greater concentration of insects and spiders available as prey for hummingbirds and other birds.

Water

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.  A misting device is an especially attractive water source for hummingbirds.

Nectar feeders (hummingbird feeders)

Backyard hummingbird feeders provide hummingbirds with nectar critical to their survival, especially during fall and spring migration. Follow these steps to ensure your yard is a safe and nutritious stopover for hummingbirds:

   Hang several feeders far enough apart that the hummingbirds cannot see one another; this will prevent one bird from dominating the rest.
   Fill the feeders with sugar water; made by combining four parts hot water to one part white sugar, boiled for one to two minutes. Never use honey, artificial sweeteners, or red dye.
   Hang your feeders in the shade to prevent the sugar solution from fermenting.
   Be sure to change the sugar water regularly -- before it gets cloudy, or about twice a week in warm weather.
   Clean the feeders with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts water about once a week. If your feeder has become dirty, try adding some grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution and shake vigorously. The grains act as a good abrasive.
   Rinse your feeder well with warm water three times before refilling with sugar solution.
   Check Hummingbirds at Home and eBird to find out when the first hummingbird sightings occur each spring, and hang your feeders up a couple of weeks before that. In the fall, keep your feeders up for two weeks after you see the last bird using it.

Questions regarding Feeding Hummingbirds

Q:  Are there any downsides to supplying a hummingbird feeder to the birds in my yard?

A:  No.  Your hummingbird feeder will be a supplemental source of nectar for your local hummingbirds, and can help them through times when there aren’t as many blooming flowers available nearby.

Q:  Do I need to buy special food for my hummingbirds?

A:  No. The best (and least expensive) solution for your feeder is a 1:4 solution of refined white sugar to tap water. That’s ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. Bring the solution to a boil, then let it cool before filling the feeder. You can make a larger batch and refrigerate the extra solution, just remember to bring it up to room temperature before you re-fill the feeder.

Q:  Should I put red coloring in the nectar solution?

A:  No, red coloring is not necessary and the reddening chemicals could prove to be harmful to the birds.  Natural nectar itself is a clear solution.

Q:  Are hummingbirds attracted to red-colored things?

A:  Yes, hummingbirds are attracted to red, as well as other brightly colored objects, because they have learned to associate high-quality nectar with red flowers.

Q:  Should I use brown sugar, honey, or molasses instead of white sugar?

A:  No, only use refined white sugar. Other sweetening agents have additional ingredients that can prove detrimental to the hummingbirds. Never use artificial sweeteners to make hummingbird nectar.
 
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I love sitting on my porch watching the hummingbirds at our feeders. We can have upwards of 80 at a time, especially during/after a rain. They also enjoy our jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that grows heavily along the creek out back.

I have to ask, one of my sisters says that by feeding birds (all birds) we take away their natural food seeking abilities. Do you agree? I don't.
 
pollinator
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A little item I just learned this morning.  Upon watching for the second time a hummingbird high in an elm tree buzzing around different areas of the trunk, I learned that they can use woodpecker and sapsucker holes that were made in the tree and that are oozing sap.  So in addition to probably getting insects in mid-air and possibly snatched from the tree bark, they get 'nectar' from these holes as well as from their usual flower foraging.
 
pollinator
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I love having hummingbirds in my yard. The best plants in my area are various salvias, which provide year round nectar, pineapple sage and salvia leucantha are two favorites. They love the blossoms on my Meyer Lemon. And in the summer, nasturiums and alstromeria are favorites.
 
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I always wonder why one can't use organic raw cane sugar.  If refined is not good for us, how is it good for them?
 
Anne Miller
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Karen Donnachaidh wrote: I have to ask, one of my sisters says that by feeding birds (all birds) we take away their natural food seeking abilities. Do you agree? I don't.



I agree with your sister to some extent.  Last year we decided that the hummingbirds would use the feeders rather than using the flowers we planted for them.  So this year we only put one feeder out when it was very dry sort of like "giving them something to drink"

One thing I observed that I had never seen before was that they seemed to be getting nectar from the corn tassels.

This year, the plants that I have that they seem to like best:  Autumn sage, scarlet sage and turks cap (malvaviscus).  I planted vinca for them but I only see them use it occasionally, like they are attracted to the red flower more than the nectar.
 
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I have to ask, one of my sisters says that by feeding birds (all birds) we take away their natural food seeking abilities. Do you agree?



I always wonder why one can't use organic raw cane sugar.  If refined is not good for us, how is it good for them?



I don't feed the birds...I do try to provide lots of blooms and habitat though and try to leave a lot of seed heads for some winter feed.

As much fun as it is to watch hummingbirds at a sugar feeder, I suspect that feeding them white sugar (and even worse red food coloring) is the equivalent to feeding bees sugar water instead of leaving them with enough honey to survive.  It is considered not a healthy alternative for the bees and I think not for hummingbirds.  Even if we were worried about the hummingbird population I'm not sure that feeding them sugar water is the answer.



 
Jane Southall
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I haven't ever had a feeder, myself.  Not to put a dour face, on this thread.  But I think this is important.  Let me preface by saying, I am not a drive out the invaders type.  Interested in thoughts on this.  Potential solutions?  been bothering me.  https://www.treehugger.com/animals/praying-mantises-released-pest-control-are-hunting-hummingbirds.html


 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Interesting read Jane. Woah! I guess I won't be buying any non-native praying mantis or ladybugs for my gardens (not that I would have). I like that tree hugger.com has Permies listed as one of the 10 Gardening Sites You Should Join. That's cool.
 
Jane Southall
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I didn't notice that.  It is cool.  Cool that permaculture is cool, now.  
 
pollinator
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I’m a big fan of planting trees to support pollinators. Since I don’t have to replant every year I don’t have to worry about forgetting or being busy and missing a year, and if I die or move away the trees will still be there, doing good. They’re also more drought tolerant and scalable. Laborwise it is easier for me (though not without effort) to plant a quarter of an acre into beneficial trees, water them for a few years to establishment, and then walk away, than it is to grow a garden of equivalent size year after year.


I haven’t added all of these yet but I hope to plant trees to feed hummingbirds too. I’d love to hear other suggestions on drought tolerant perennials that are good for them. Note that many if
not all of the plants on this list are also good for bees of various kinds and often butterflies. Note also that some of these can be aggressive spreaders in the right conditions.


Azalea
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
Cape Honeysuckle
Flame Acanthus
Flowering Quince
Lantana
Manzanita
Mimosa
Red Buckeye
Tree Tobacco
Turk's Cap
Weigela
(Source: http://www.hummingbirds.net/attract.html)

Another source lists crabapples, tuliptree, and strawberry tree as good for hummingbirds. I’ve never heard of crabapple being beneficial for them before so I can’t confirm
https://www.thespruce.com/ten-trees-that-attract-hummingbirds-3269646

I also believe that native flowering currant is good for them
 
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Create a suitable spot for Raptors to nest. This could be a big tree with the top cut off or just a dead tree that you allow to remain standing. This is more likely to be used as a hunting perch rather than a nesting site. Hummingbirds prefer to nest in the cone of protection that exists under the nest and perches of large birds of prey. Crows, Jays and other birds that might want to eat hummingbird eggs or babies, don't like to go to areas frequented by large birds of prey. And those large birds aren't concerned with little hummingbirds.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Because hummingbirds have such a high metabolism, it's important for them to maximize foraging time. A microclimate that heats up early in the morning, will provide nectar sooner than cooler spots. Another microclimate that faces the Evening Sun, will allow them to forage a little later in the evening. Suitable resting spots, in these warm zones, will allow them to take a rest, without having to expend energy staying warm.

Safe sleeping spots that are sheltered from Wind and Rain, will allow them to burn less energy while sleeping.
 
master steward
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A pacific northwest plant that hummingbirds love, is salmon berry. I always see a lot of hummingbirds when my salmonberries are in bloom, and they bloom really early in the year (one year I spotted them blooming in late February, though March is more common). Another benefit to salmonberry is that it's the first to ripen, usually at least a week before wild strawberries ripen. While it's not the tastiest berry, it's the first berry, so you usually don't care!
 
James Landreth
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I wonder if planting salmonberry in hugelbeds would help its drought tolerance. I feel like when I see it in the wild it's growing in an environment that's moist and with lots of nurse logs
 
Nicole Alderman
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I've never had a problem with mine dying in a drought. They produce before it gets hot/dry, and the worst I ever saw was them going dormant early. Granted, being in the foothills, I do get slightly more rain than other areas of the northwest, but even when we went months without rain, and our pond dried up, the salmonberries were fine everywhere on the property. Some looked a little dead, but were fine the next year. I have them all over my five acres, some by wetlands, some in a hedge between pasture and forest, some growing isolated from any shade or water source (though those tend to be next to old cedar stumps, which might act like a hugel). I am also on a north-facing slope, so most of them only 6 hours of sun in the summer, though others get maybe 10 or 12 during the summer solstice.

I'm definitely thinking that, once established, they'd survive just fine in a hugel. And, baring that, they could be planted in the shadier areas and that would probably help a lot.
 
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Flower pollinating birds found outside of the tropics is unique to the New World.  Sunbirds, the hummingbird's counterpart in Africa and Asia, are native to tropical regions and don't migrate into the temperate zones during the summer, unlike hummingbirds that range north to Alaska and south to Tierra del Fuego during their respective summers.

Sunbirds have bright, jewel-like colors, but aren't as good at hovering as hummingbirds, so flowers that are primarily pollinated by them often include a built-in perch into their flower structure. A good example is the bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia) where the "beak" of the flower provides a perch for the sunbird to perch while it probes for nectar in the orange flowers that form the "bird's crest".

Despite being a native of Asia and not having evolved with the hummingbird, the mimosa tree is one of the best hummingbird food sources that can be grown in upstate SC, providing two and a half months of continuous bloom from June to August during which time the tree is alive with hummingbirds,  butterflies,  bees, and pollinating flies.
 
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Hummingbirds love canna lilies. Even though they do not (easily, reliably) overwinter here (and are therfore a bit more work because one has to store them in a warmer indoor spot over the winter--or for a milder climate or winter can be successfully mulched and ket in place) the canna lily adds beauty and is a magnet for the hummingbird. The (sub)tropical canna goes together nicely with the hummingbird whose colours--beautiful metalic, shimmering, iridescent hues--remind us of the tropical lushness and richness, but also touch us due to the bird's nomadic/migratory dip into and out of the warmer climes. Canna lillies are vigorous growers when it is warm and fertile enough for them and respond even more when fed appropriatel amounts of greywater (greatwater) and water. It is amazing how much the rhizomes expand by the end of the growing year--even in this temperate climate. Some varieties have edible rhizomes and were a keystone food of the Inca culture (see "Lost Crops of the Incas" freely available online as a PDF download).
 
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I find hummingbirds love our rhododendrons. We have two planted near our front door. On a few summer days, when our door was left open, We've had hummingbirds fly right in the house. It's like they just wanted to say Hi, then turn around and fly back out.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I have found hummingbirds in various stages of torpor when they get trapped in vacant buildings. When placed in the Sun, many begin flying within a few minutes. They can burn 50 times less energy when they go into this state of nightly hibernation. They appear dead. So if you find one in a perfectly safe place, just leave it alone and it will start flying early in the morning. If it was obviously trapped, pick it up and place it in the sun. It will take some time to come out of it and  begin foraging.

It's this ability to shut off most of its metabolic needs, that allows such a small bird to range  so far north and south. A Bird Without this ability would burn all of its energy resources staying warm at night. I've seen them sleeping on south-facing recesses in brickwork. I'm assuming that they sleep there because it's sheltered and the thermal mass doesn't get as cold as the surrounding environment at night.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I was over at my mom's house, and we were walking around her garden and she pointed out her honeysuckle bush. It has been blooming since December (i.e. through all of winter--even when it snowed over a foot!). The hummingbirds have been all over it the whole time, too. I asked her to find the name it, and she did! She even quoted some info about it

Lonicera fragrantissima is a delightful winter-flowering shrub bearing fragrant, cream-white flowers on almost leafless branches. These are sometimes followed by dull-red berries. The purple-flushed green leaves appear in spring. The flowers are a magnet for winter-active bumblebees. (& hummingbirds!)



Here's links to more info from wikipedia and Missouri Botanical Garden

A lot of the resources state the bloom time is March-April, but maybe that's for colder zones? We're in zone 8, and like I said, hers has been blooming--and feeding hummingbirds--since December!
 
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