Get a Hummer. May 27, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening.
Tags: hummingbird plants, hummingbirds
Gas prices got you down? Get a hummer or two and you’ll soon feel better.
Say what?! Not a Hummer, a hummer—as in hummingbird. These colorful, aggressive little critters are guaranteed to brighten anybody’s day, and you don’t have to drive anywhere to enjoy them.
Here in the East, we typically have just one resident hummingbird, the ruby-throated, though rufous hummingbirds are becoming more frequent visitors. Of course, you lucky Westerners have bazillion species swarming your yards and feeders. But we’re not bitter.
Actually, for once, we’re not bitter. Okay, we would love to host a rufous hummingbird here at Hawk’s Haven. But we’re really quite happy with our ridiculous little ruby-throats and their crazy antics.
Hummers seem like happy, innocent little busy beelike birds, but the males think they’re golden eagles or something. They’ll dive-bomb anything, including you and your windows, if they perceive you as rivals for anything from food and females to air space. Fortunately, they’re harmless, unlike, say, yellowjackets and other beelike bombers. So we can appreciate the humor of these little Napoleons without worrying about our safety.
And they really are entertaining. Until this morning, our friend Ben had forgotten about their obsession with one of our office windows—the one directly in front of the computer. It’s a shaded window, so there’s no way that they could see their reflection. But they still buzz it enthusiastically, squeaking all the while. Doubtless they’re looking at our friend Ben frantically typing inside and muttering “I’m gonna get you, Ben!!!” The abuse I’m forced to endure.
So, like millions of others, Silence Dogood and our friend Ben love our hummingbirds. But unlike others, we draw the line at setting out nectar feeders for them. The thought of constantly mixing up sugar-water, watching for disasters like fermentation and the dreaded black mold, sterilizing our feeders, and endlessly refilling, all the while fearing invasions from ants, bees, wasps, and the like is just too much for us. Not to even get into the warnings about mixing up the wrong proportions of sugar to water or, God forbid, using some other kind of sweetener. (In a word, don’t.) Refilling a tube feeder with sunflower seeds is one thing. Taking on a part-time job is something else.
Besides, we’re gardeners. Hummingbirds evolved to get their nectar from plants, not feeders, right? And here at Hawk’s Haven, we’re fortunate enough to have a range of hummingbird favorites that keep the little terrors hanging around quite happily until the onset of cold weather causes them to migrate to their tropical wintering grounds.
We typically see our first hummingbirds when the columbines and hyacinths bloom. From there, hostas and jewelweed, monarda (bee balm), salvias (like our beloved pineapple sage, which will bring hummers right up onto the deck), lantanas, fuchsias, trumpetvines, nasturtiums, and rose-of-Sharons keep these high-octane avians going. (Our friend Ben has always found the expression “eat like a bird” amusing. Pretty much any bird will eat ten times its weight in food every day, but hummingbirds, constantly in motion as they are, must consume many more times their weight to stay alive.) I’ve often seen them buzzing our cannas, too.
There are many other “hummingbird plants,” and not all of them have red flowers. Hummingbirds do associate the color red with nectar, thanks in part to hummingbird feeders, but they’ll sip very happily from white, pink, lavender, purple, blue, and orange flowers, too. Check to see which hummingbird nectar plants thrive in your area.
Our friend Ben thinks that growing hummingbird-attracting plants rather than setting out feeders serves three purposes: It attracts the hummers, it saves work, and it treats us twice, with blooms as well as our beloved ruby-throats. It doesn’t get better (or easier) than that!