In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous ~Aristotle
This summer we have been getting up close and personal with the hummingbirds in the garden. Here in my little slice of heaven we have but one species, the ruby-throated hummingbird. But oh what a delight is this glittering bird.
They can be very elusive in spring, and this year they didn’t make an appearance until June, but they were worth the wait. Much of the reason we don’t see them right away is that the flowers they prefer in my garden don’t start blooming until almost summer. There are many flowers hummers love, but here you are sure to see a show if you plant monarda didyma. Just pull up a chair near a clump of monarda and the action takes place every 10 minutes or so.
This year with all the rain the monarda has bloomed tall in large clumps and for much longer which has extended the viewing. I have a fabulous drift just outside my back window which makes for easier picture taking. Right next to this clump grows some tall phlox and echinacea which my hummers partake of as well.
The hummingbirds will actually make a circuit around the garden. I will see them go from the echinacea and mint flowers on the side of the house, round the front gardens to echinacea and phlox, move to the side gardens in search of special flowers, and then to the back gardens to the native honeysuckle and Obedient plants that are just blooming in several areas. I can actually see them flitting (or fighting-usually the males) about the back gardens hovering over the large drifts of the Obedient plants I purposefully planted.
Soon when the Cardinal flowers bloom they will be gorging on these too. Hummers are drawn to red/orange (bright colored) flowers, but once they find others, like my white phlox, they will remember and come back time and time again.
And by leaving small branches untrimmed on trees, shrubs and vines the hummers can perch and rest. They also like to rest on the tomato cages, and I have spotted them resting for up to 30 minutes. If you have a misting hose or turn on your hose to misting, you can see the hummers enjoying a bath as they flit and hover through the mist. I have also seen them out when the rain is light or misty.
Now I have tried to entice the Rubies in early spring with a feeder, but they always seemed to ignore it preferring to wait for the flowers to bloom. Not one to give up, I decided to move the feeder this time of year and place it under some of their favorite plants near the patio, but again it went untouched. As you can see from the picture it is a blue glass sort of artsy feeder.
Feeders are great this time of year as the males are gearing up soon for the long trip to their winter home in Central America. So I decided to attempt another feeder that is more standard and in red to help attract them. We hung both together just off the patio and close to those favorite blooms and branches, and within hours they found both feeders. Of course scientist will tell you these hummers prefer feeder location to color, but my evidence says otherwise.
Rubies make quick stops on their circuits and will hover 3-4 at a time near the feeders, or get into a bit of fight over them. They seem to visit the feeders in greater numbers and more frequently at dusk than during the day. Rubies fly straight and fast, can stop instantly, hover and then change positions (up, down or back). If you have ever had a Rubie fly or hover right near you it is amazing and the sound is unmistakable.
Unfortunately I have never found a nest in my garden. But I do have a “forever wild” area right behind me and woods across the street, so I am sure they find lots of safe spots to nest without humans around. If you have ever seen their nest, they are quite small and cute. The nest is the size of large thimble, built on top of a branch and made of thistle or dandelion down held together with spider silk and pine resin. The outside of the nest is camouflaged with lichen and moss. Now you know why they might be hard to find, and why I have never found one.
Fun Facts and Folklore:
- The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings about 53 times a second, and has the highest metabolic rate of any warm-blooded vertebrate in the world.
- The extremely short legs of the Ruby prevents it from walking or hopping, but they can shuffle along a perch.
- They will pluck tiny insects, like mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies, and small bees, from the air, or from spider webs including the spiders. Rubies will also pick small caterpillars and aphids from leaves.
- Hummers are believed to be one of the original creators of the Universe according to Native American legend.
- Southwest tribes say the hummer is the bringer of rain.
Have you been delighted by hummingbirds this summer? Do you plant native flowers or other flowers they love?
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