Hummers excite the senses

August 31, 2013

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Hummingbirds are an extraordinary gift of nature.

Clad in beautiful jewel-like iridescent feathers, hummers have hearts that race more than 1,200 beats per minute while in flight. And while tiny in size, hummingbirds are capable of amazing flight acrobatics.

Hummingbirds live on nectar and by eating small insects such as aphids, gnats, spider mites and spiders. The insects provide essential protein, vitamins and minerals while the nectar gives the birds the energy they need to fly long distances.

When not actively breeding, most hummers that nest in North America migrate to tropical habitats or areas of the U.S. or other tropical habitats that are temperate enough to provide insects and flowers all year.

The black-chinned hummingbird migrates from Washington and Idaho as far south as New Mexico and Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains. The closely related ruby-throated hummingbird generally moves from areas north and east of the Mississippi River to Texas and Florida.

In North America, these spectacular birds are small, only 3 to 4 four inches long. Their habitats are quite varied, including meadows, riverbanks, mixed forests and deserts. They fly up to a mile to find food and shelter. The birds’ tiny nests (1-2 inches wide) are generally sited in tree crotches, but they can be found in other well-camouflaged areas, such as among the spines of desert cacti.

Hummingbirds seek food and shelter in home gardens as they migrate. Attracting them is as simple as providing food, water and shelter and foregoing the use of pesticides and other harmful outdoor chemicals.

In addition to providing hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water as nectar sources, gardeners can fulfill a hummer’s needs by planting nectar producing species, particularly those that sport red or deep pink, trumpet-shaped, deep-throated flowers. Selections include salvias, coral bean, Turk’s cap, hibiscus, red yucca, standing cypress, cypress vine, crossvine, trumpet creeper and coral honeysuckle.

Resources: U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Bird Watchers Digest, Texas Audubon Society

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.

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Category: Horticulture Archived