With a little luck, there's a good chance you've seen a hummingbird this summer. These miniature winged wonders are awe-inspiring for their size, speed and remarkable beauty, plus their uncanny maneuverability. But you don't have to wait for a chance sighting ? you can easily attract hummingbirds right to your back yard by creating a simple, vibrant hummingbird garden.
Good hummingbird habitat doesn't have to be complicated. Your feathered friends have basic needs: food sources, water for bathing (they love flitting through the garden sprinkler), and accommodations for perching and nest building. There are a variety of flowers (particularly wildflowers), vines, shrubs and trees that you can incorporate to create a successful hummingbird retreat. Yucca, snapdragon, morning glory, mealberry and flowering crabapple are just a few of the varieties that hummingbirds enjoy.
As their rapid wings indicate, hummingbirds are exceptionally active, requiring a large daily intake of nectar and insects. (They eat half of their weight in sugar every day!) Hummingbirds are known for their attraction to red flowers, having learned that the vivid petals often indicate robust nectar supplies. However, they'll readily dine from pink, orange, purple, yellow and even white flowers of the right varieties. You can even encourage longer visits from hummingbirds by planting a mixture of plant varieties, both annual and perennial.
Keeping in mind the hummingbird's habits, you can play with a number of options to meet both their needs and your aesthetic preferences. For starters, these little birds are protective of their food supply and prefer to perch where they can survey their domain. While males will perch on a clothesline, exposed branches or any spot with a good view, females and their young keep to the shade and security offered by thicker foliage. A mix of shrubs, flowers and trees will make a great home for your birds and a pleasing garden for you!
You won't just love hummingbirds for their looks alone: they make great partners for any gardener. In flying from flower to flower, they pollinate the plants. And their taste for small insects includes garden pests such as aphids and gnats.
You can learn more about designing a hummingbird garden in this e-handbook from Mother Earth News. It has extensive information about hummingbird species, where they live and what they need, plus suggestions for specific plants that will provide ideal habitat.
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