How to attract colorful hummers

Hummingbirds amaze onlookers with their speed and beauty.

These brightly colored, powerful but tiny birds migrate seasonally back and forth through the southwestern United States and Mexico, visiting gardens and natural areas along the way.

Lured by the nectar produced by blooming plants, hummingbirds hover and dart in every direction while sipping the sugary drink.

A hummer’s aerial maneuvers require tremendous energy. Their wings beat 80-200 times per second.

Their hearts, which are large in relation to their body size, beat 400 to 1,200 times per minute.

The fuel to support this activity comes from high-sucrose nectar, in addition to the protein and other nutrients gleaned from small insects.

Hummingbirds travel long distances, preparing for their trips by feeding almost constantly for about two weeks, nearly doubling their body weight in stored fat.

In fall, most hummingbirds track southward, fueling in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida before traveling to Mexico and beyond. They feed on myriad flowers, but show a preference for those with high nectar concentrations, such as salvias, penstemons and many desert plants.

Homeowners can help hummingbirds safely make their journey.

Protecting existing native trees and shrubs provides habitat, food and breeding grounds.

Homeowners may plant flowering plants that are native to North Central Texas.

Installing various plants that bloom in succession rather than all at once will offer nectar throughout the seasons when hummers are present. Grouping at least two species together optimizes pollination.

Avoid or limit the use of pesticides, particularly insecticides, in home landscapes. Ingestion of pesticide or insects affected by pesticides harms hummers.

Keep cats indoors or in a confined enclosure. Free-roaming cats kill visiting hummingbirds.

If maintaining a feeding station, keep feeders clean and change the solution often, especially in hot weather.

Harmful bacteria thrive in and on feeders that are not sanitized regularly.

Place the stations at a height and distance that keeps them away from pets and wildlife.

Learn more about the hummingbirds that visit North Central Texas and the flowering plants that these species prefer.

For instance, ruby-throated hummers are attracted to red or orange tubular-shaped flowers, such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower or red yucca.

The black-throated hummingbird and Anna’s hummingbird are also frequent visitors to Texas gardens. Learn more at Texas Parks and Wildlife (tpwd.gov).

For answers to your horticulture questions, call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit lakegranburymastergardeners.org.