Welcoming Critters-Hummers Delight


Female Ruby resting


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.

Ruby drinking from monarda didyma

Ruby drinking from monarda didyma

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.

DSCN1746Now 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.

Male Ruby on new feeder

Male Ruby on new feeder

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.


Female trying to land on monarda to rest

Female trying to land on monarda to rest

Have you been delighted by hummingbirds this summer?  Do you plant native flowers or other flowers they love?








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  1. says

    How wonderful Donna! I love the hummers and have planted many plants for them to enjoy including Monarda. I see them also in the Joe Pye and they are enjoying the Trumpet Vine this year. Out front one surprised me as it flew out from my phlox to the feeder I was just about to change. I have two feeders in two different locations (front and back porches) so all can catch a quick meal with less of a fight. I have read it is the males who fight and it’s up to them whether or not they will let a new female feed from their feeder! I love their antics and see them perch often in the neighbors Maple but this year also on my rustic leaf trellis which I now dub the bird perch – for that is what it’s become, a large bird perch. I may make more! How great for you to capture such wonderful hummer pictures! They are very difficult to photograph, eh? Could be because of those extreme flight maneuvering capabilities. I enjoy the lore and the beliefs of the Native Americans!

    • says

      Thanks Kathy and I am happy to see the hummer shave delighted you too. I am finding that we have some dominant male and female hummer ruling the feeders. They certainly are a challenge to capture in a picture and they seem very used to us now. I will be sad to see them go, but I hope the feeders keep them longer or perhaps we may find some new ones stopping by on their way South to get a bit of refreshment.

  2. Ladyhawkke says

    How beautiful they are. I also have them in my yard, I’ve just seen one pair feeding on the many tubular flowers I have. In case anyone is interested, I watched a hummingbird cam several months ago in CA. Her name is Phoebe and I saw her take care of three clutches. The nest happens to be in someone’s yard and she makes the various nests in a rose bush. I just went to the cam but there are just photos of Phoebe and her chicks. Save the website for next time!

  3. says

    Nice facts Donna.

    I didn’t realize that the nests were THAT small. I keep dreaming that one day I will find one….now maybe I’ll have a chance…since you’ve explained what to look for hehehe.

    I have NEVER seen a hummingbird that wasn’t in flight. I spot them at the coral honeysuckle, but they are always beating their wings. That fantastic photo on the feeder really makes them look so different. Thanks for broadening my horizons :)
    Loret recently posted..Nature’s voyeur

  4. says

    I love this time of year when the Hummers are so abundant. I spend many evenings on my deck watching the 3 feeders and all of the hummingbird plants swirl with activity. For such tiny birds, they are kind of funny to watch them chase all the other birds away from “their” plants or feeder.
    Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Gardening for the Birds

  5. says

    I only use plants that birds, butterflies and bees will enjoy. Yes, they love red Menarda which is not native in Northern Wisconsin or Minnesota where I garden. I have named my property Hummingbird Point and tweet @hummingbirdrjwg. The Cardinal Flower isn’t blooming yet, but I hope the females will be able to enjoy before they start south. We haven’t seen males for a few weeks.
    Rebecca Gaertner recently posted..The Best Place on Earth in August, Lake Superior!

  6. Regina Newlin says

    I have observed hummers on my monarda also which is very tall and long blooming this year in MI. The bumblebees have also foraged there all day long throughout the bloom period.


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