FLUTTERING ALONG — A hummingbird stops by a flower for a quick drink before fluttering along on its way. Hummingbirds can be attracted to your garden by planting several types of plants with sweet, colorful blooms or by making a sweet hummingbird feed. (Sentinel file photo by John Clifford)

Hummingbirds are fun to watch and important pollinators

Published Sep 16, 2018 at 9:00am

Hummingbirds — or sometimes called hummers due to the noise of their flapping wings — are the smallest birds; but despite their size, they are vital pollinators.

Hummingbirds visit flowers to feed. The typical flower is trumpet-shaped to accommodate the hummingbirds’ wings. The flower part, corolla, (the overall structure of flower petals), tends to be thick enough to resist other birds, usually red; however, when the hummingbird finds a garden to collect the nectar, the birds will utilize all types of colors of flowers.

Hummingbirds are important pollinators. When the hummingbirds feed, their forehead rubs against the stamens and pistils, collecting pollen as they go, then the hummingbirds go to different flowers for more nectar and pollinating.

Hummingbirds do not have the sense of smell but have a good memory for their food sources.

Their heart rate can reach as high as 1,260 beats per minute. At night however, their metabolism slows down to between 50 and 180 beats per minute and they enter a hibernation-like state known as torpor, reducing the need for food.

In the wild, the hummingbirds survive from five to seven years. In captivity, the hummingbirds can live to 17 years.

Watching a hummingbird, the helicopter comes to mind. The hummingbird can stop in mid-air, flapping their wings horizontally in a figure-eight fashion. Various species have different variations on flying patterns and the number of times a hummingbird’s wings beat is different and ranges from 720 to 5,400 times per minute when hovering. 

Hummingbirds are territorial birds, possibly due to the amount of food they need to survive.

Females build nests and feed their young independently. Females produce two eggs in a brood. When the chicks hatch, the chicks needs protein to grow and the mother spends her time collecting insects for them. She feeds the chicks one to three times an hour by perching on the side of the nest, arching her back, stretching her neck, lifting her head and holding her bill as her throat swells. She then pumps her beak, like a sewing needle down her chicks’ throats, regurgitating half-digested insects. The nesting phase lasts typically from 18 to 23 days.

Attracting hummingbirds is easy – if certain flowers are around, the hummers will surely visit your garden.

Among the native plants that hummingbirds are attracted to are: the trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, red bee balm, Monarda didyma, lemon beebalm, Monarda citriodora, wild bergamont, Monarda fisulosa, cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, trumpet creeper, Campsis radicans, columbine, Aquilegia Canadensis.

Add theseflowers to your yard to help attract hummingbirds.

You can also make a sweet syrup to attract hummingbirds to a colorful feeder. When making a hummingbird feed, the mixture of 1:4 ratio is used, meaning one cup of water to ¼ cup of sugar. Combine the two and heat on the stove until the sugar has dissolved. Cool entirely before placing in the feeder. Only use granulated table sugar and keep the feeder clean.

Change the food in cool weather every week in warmer weather the food should be cleaned and replenish every three to four days. Hummingbirds migrate to the U.S. in the springtime. They migrate alone – males usually migrate first, then the females. Hummingbirds are fun to watch and to attract to your yard.

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