Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds
There are 340 species of hummingbirds in the world and all are found only in the western hemisphere. Of these, only one, the ruby-throated hummingbird, is found regularly east of the Mississippi River. The smallest, the Cuban bee hummingbird, is 2 ¼ inches long – about the size of a bumblebee. The ruby-throated hummingbird weighs about one-tenth of an ounce. Hummingbirds can hover like helicopters, moving forwards, sideways, or backwards. Flying consumes a great deal of energy. Wing beats have been measured at 20-200 beats per second.
Hummingbirds may drink up to eight times their body weight daily in water. Although their normal body temperature is about 103 degrees F, it may drop to 70 degrees F at night. They have the ability to endure temporary cool weather or cool nights by becoming dormant.
Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and small insects and spiders. Your garden should provide a healthy, steady diet of both nectar and insects. Hummingbird feeders should be hung in the shade and cleaned and refilled every three to five days. Fill the feeders with a solution of one part table sugar to four parts water brought to a boil and then cooled and stored in the refrigerator for future use. Do not use honey solutions in feeders as they may produce a fungal disease fatal to hummingbirds. Pesticides, especially sprays, can be lethal to hummingbirds. Even if they do not take in enough nectar contaminated with pesticides to kill them directly, the number of small insects available to them in your garden will drop. This may cause starvation or death of the young.
You can attract hummingbirds by planting red, tubular flowers. There are many red-flowered plants to choose from. Over 160 native North American plants depend exclusively on hummingbirds for pollination. Some of the favorites and easily grown in this area are: trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, scarlet petunia, scarlet penstemon, scarlet morning glory, cypress vine, scarlet paintbrush, coral bells, and scarlet salvia. There are dozens of other plants, mostly red and tubular, that also work very well.