by Judy Kautz, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Have you noticed hummingbirds have arrived back in our landscapes recently? Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures, delightful to watch and always welcome visitors in our yards. If you don’t have hummingbirds, there are many things you can do to make your garden a haven for hummers.
Three species of hummingbirds are regularly found in Oklahoma; two species, the Ruby-throated and the Black-chinned, nest in our state and are here during the summer months. The third species, the Rufous Hummingbird, does not nest in Oklahoma, but migrates through our state during the spring and fall.
Measuring 3-3/4 inches and weighing only 2.5 to 3.5 grams, the ruby-throated is Oklahoma’s smallest bird. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. Its flying agility is matched by no other in the animal kingdom and its chief competitor for food is not other birds, but nectar-loving insects.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common hummer found in Oklahoma.
It is also interesting to note that the hummingbird’s metabolic rate (the rate at which it uses energy) is the highest of any warm-blooded vertebrate except the shrew. They must consume over half their weight in sugars each day to fuel this high metabolism. In fact, a hyper hummer’s wings beat 70 times a second while hovering and up to 200 times a second during the diving, erratic flights of courtship. So they do need to eat often!
Hummingbird feeders are a great way to entice these beautiful little flyers to your neighborhood; feeders are plentiful in local stores and nurseries, and they are generally inexpensive. You can hang them anywhere, on eaves of your roof, on a shepherd’s hook in your garden, or even from a tree. You don’t have to buy special nectar to fill them – just mix 1 part sugar to four parts water (one cup sugar to 4 cups water, for example) in a pan and bring to a boil to dissolve all the sugar. No red food coloring is necessary – simply cool the liquid, fill your feeder, hang it in the yard and enjoy the show.
You should place your feeders out in mid-April (think tax time!) and maintain them until late October (think Halloween!) Nearly all hummingbirds have migrated south by the first of October, but occasionally stragglers, especially young birds, may be seen throughout October and these birds benefit from the energy boost you provide by keeping hummingbird feeders.
Hummingbird feeders are inexpensive and provide a good source of energy for hummingbirds in your garden.
Invite hummingbirds into your yard by creating an environment of flowers that they love. If you have a small yard, you can still attract hummingbirds to it by using containers of their favorite flowers. A wonderful combination to put in a pot for your patio includes two colors of Superbells, calibrachoa, Grape Punch and Miss Lilac, and some sweet potato vine for foliage. Plant this combination in a 12-inch pot and place it in full sun. Another combination of plants includes Summer Snapdragon, angelonia, blue or purple variety, and Superbells, calibrachoa, Dreamsicle, a peach color. Add some purple petunias and some lime green coleus for foliage, and you have a gorgeous assortment of plants hummingbirds will not be able to resist. This combination of plants should be put in a 16-18 inch pot and placed in the sun.
Hummingbirds will stay around until at least late September and they need lots of nectar to survive, so help them out – plant their favorite flowers, put out some feeders and enjoy the display!
Bee balm is easy to grow in Oklahoma and a favorite flower of hummingbirds.
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