Since this is my first year in caring for the hummingbirds, their departure to the South has hit me quite hard :(. I still feel blessed to see a few migratory females now and then but sharing my garden with them brought me great joy and gave me a new sense of purpose. In order to remedy my literal empty next syndrome, I’ve been dreaming up next season’s garden design with a dual purpose as both hummingbird haven by day and a moonlight garden by night. I have also lined up multiple art projects e.g. cross-stitch, paper crafts, and field journal, all hummingbird themed of course, to keep me busy while I look forward to their return and the great hope that I will have even more hummers next year :)!
*Photos to follow of my completed projects. Pictured below is one of my loftier goals.
My favorite legend of the magical hummingbird comes from the greeting card company, Papyrus…
“Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning, and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”
A good friend recently told me that the presence of hummingbirds is a reminder to appreciate the sweet little things in life ♥
I started gardening in 2004, creating a perennial raised-bed garden (always remember that raised beds need extra watering!). When my husband and I returned from our Cape May trip early June, after discovering the presence of hummingbirds, I decided to read more on the topic (a resource post will follow this one). Transforming my old perennial garden into a hummingbird garden has been a great source of joy for me! Through this process, I’ve rediscovered my passion for gardening; sadly I had abandoned my perennial garden for a few years minus some basic pruning, post Fall & winter cleanup, and fertilizing (meaning there were no new plant installations/landscaping for a while). Even with the recent new plant additions, I have kept a few of my previous perennials, namely Dragon’s Blood, daylily, bleeding hearts, and miniature roses. The others since have been transferred to a neighboring garden patch which we usually refer to as “The Bowling Pin” because of its shape. I saw a question posted to The Hummingbird Society Facebook site (hope you will decide to join!) regarding the perfect zone-specific plants and flowers to establish in one’s garden to successfully attract these birds. My best advice is to consult with your local nursery; they can be a wealth of information and you will have the confidence in knowing your purchase will have a higher potential to thrive in your garden. I know, shameless plug here to support your local small business, but you know how much I love small businesses ;)! My local nursery even had a printout highlighting perennials versus annuals (was very thankful for this list)!
The following are for Zone 6 (keep in mind these are dependent on sunlight and water conditions in your garden):
There may be more hummingbird-attractive plants I have not included on my list; I don’t consider it comprehensive since I’m still learning like you. I will try to update as I encounter them in the future. I hope this list will be helpful to all of you in Zone 6! Seems like nectar-producing species, red (hummers can see color), and/or tubular-shaped flowers (in which they typically find their bugs of choice here) are the way to go ;). Remember to set out your nectar feeder(s) and keep them very clean and full. The hummingbirds will become more and more reliant as nectar-producing flowers diminsh with the progression through summer into autumn. Also, place your feeders near these hummer-friendly plants. Hummingbirds love a place in which they can enjoy opportunities for shade, part sun, full sun, and cover (mature trees & shrubs) as a protection against potential danger. I suspect this is why they’ve chosen to remain in our garden for this reason.
Below, is a picture of my hummingbird garden in the middle of its transformation, enjoy =)…
It’s been my pleasure to be our hummingbirds’ (Scout, Honey, Tibolt, Lili, +?) temporary guardian until their return to the South. I like to believe that Westchester NY is home and the Carolinas, Florida, or Mexico are their version of a holiday ;) This year I began putting out feeders in the beginning of June but I plan to hang feeders perhaps the last week of April 2015 to welcome them back home =). As I have promised… hummingbird care…
Nectar Feeder & Nectar Guard Tips/Feeding Port Guards: Aspect’s HummBlossom 4oz. red/rose & purple/plum. I have two extra HummBlossoms to maintain a constant rotation… for them, no waiting ;). BTW, if you were wondering whether red or purple makes a difference, know that they will gladly accept nectar in either colored feeder.
Shelter from the Elements: A Humbrella provides the following… “protects hanging hummingbird feeders from the elements and crawling insects. Solar grey color slows evaporation,” as per Amazon. I’d like to add a shady place to take a short rest and a way to still be able to watch the environment around them while they are feeding. I have been very pleased with all my purchases.
I’m reserving the red hummer-friendly dome especially for end of the season when there might be a few hummingbird stragglers desperately searching for food. Since this is my first year caring for hummers I’m not sure what to expect; I may need to keep my feeders out until October/possibly November? A friend who also lives in Westchester NY has told me that she and her husband have seen more hummers and other hummingbird species aside from the ruby-throats beginning late summer. Something to look forward to =)!
Recently we’ve endured some heavy rainstorms so unfortunately one of my nectar feeders came flying off the Humbrella hook, but fortunately the feeder was found intact (was afraid that it would break against the stone path which cuts through my garden or that it couldn’t be easily located after the jostling from heavy winds). I had thought long and hard to consider the best way to secure the feeder to the hook and remembered that I had successfully used twisty ties to prevent our squirrels from stealing an entire cake out of our suet feeder. If you are not a fan of the twisties, you may also use a medium-sized gear tube tie/rubber tie (can be purchased from Home Depot or any local hardware store)… I find that it has done the trick perfectly…
Nesting Supplies: Female hummingbirds use spider webs (to help hold nesting materials together), lichen, parts of flowers e.g. dandelions, and bits of cotton or thick threads for nest-building… and this is where you come in ;) (see below). Male hummingbirds do not play a role in creating the nest or rearing young or even feeding the mother of their offspring like in other bird species so let us do our part to help the females; I’m sure they would appreciate it… Also, while male hummers have ample opportunity to bulk up before flying south, the new mothers may unfortunately lose a lot of their weight in caring for their young. Please take into account their arduous flight south during the Fall, leaving very little time for the females to rebuild their nutrition and regain some weight :(. I believe this makes them even more deserving of some extra help. I keep these nesting materials either under a weather dome or tied to a tree branch below thick foliage; they dry amazingly quickly after storms so not to worry!
Nectar: 1/4 Domino pure cane granulated sugar + 1/2 cups hot water (to melt sugar) + 1/2 cups cold water (please remember to cool the solution before offering to them!)= will fill 2 HummBlossoms perfectly with no leftovers. I have refrigerated the homemade nectar solution for a day or two if I made early preparations then re-heated (again, only offer nectar after cooling!) My personal preference is to not use commercial or red-dyed nectar because using granulated pure cane sugar is affordable, healthier, and meets their nutritional needs (comes closest to the nectar of flowers). Please don’t use honey, syrup, or any artificial sweeteners since these have been known to be harmful!
Cleaning: Dishwashing liquid, warm to hot water, dedicated sponge, bottle brush, mini brushes, plus very thorough scrubbing and rinsing! Remember to carefully clean and rotate usage of nectar guard tips as well!
Nectar Change: Every 2.5 days (though it has been listed on various websites that 3-4 days as still okay; remember to keep in mind the weather conditions & temperatures), I do spoil them a little but honestly I wouldn’t want to drink from the same dirty glass for 2 days, would you? The development of black mold in nectar can make your little feathered friends very ill and has been known to cause death.
Jeweled Hummingbird Swing: This isn’t a must but it’s a cute idea… a hummingbird swing, which provides a place to rest as they are keeping vigil near their food source. I’ve seen small birds perching on the one my husband had set up but in the following You Tube videos, you will see that hummers are indeed also drawn to it given the right spot…
I purchased most of my supplies through Amazon or my local markets. Click on the pictures for product brand names and descriptions. Please view my previous post regarding ant guards. Feel free to contact me using the webform below if you have further questions. I will cover the topic of Zone 6 plants and flowers to attract hummingbirds in an upcoming post.
Hummingbirds play a very important role in pollination (especially consider the grave decrease in the honeybee population). Hummers also eat undesirable soft-bodied insects like ants, mosquitos, aphids, gnats, among others… so in caring for them, you are also contributing to the balance and well-being of nature.
I’m posting this segment slightly out of order but my take on hummingbird care is soon to follow. I have fortunately not needed this form of ant guard due to the type of nectar feeder I’ve been using. I do however use Aspects 384 Nectar Guard Tips, pictured last below, over the individual feeding ports to protect the nectar from bees, ants, etc. and in turn preventing the nectar from spoiling sooner. Just fill part-way with water and hopefully your insect pest issues will be a thing of the past!
We have 2 daily regulars (1 male ruby-throated “Scout” & 1 female ruby-throated “(Honey)suckle”). First sighting of Spring 2014 was the last week of May 2014 when I put 1 nectar feeder up (my old Perky Pet for window-view). Wish I could remember the exact date the feeder went up but the first day I ever spotted a hummer in my life was June 10, 2014 :)… not to say they haven’t been feeding for weeks previously in my area; probably I was just oblivious. Since then, I’ve been much more vigilant and have learned quite a bit about our pair and hummers in general and better able to take good care of them. It was funny how I learned of the female; it was only through our digital photographs. Most of the time I saw their iridescent green backs and it looked like the same bird. I also didn’t take into account their size difference and now I wonder how I could have missed this since Honey is much bigger than Scout. The one time in the beginning of birdwatching, when I consciously looked, it was a male (ruby gorget & no white tip on tail) so I was overjoyed and shocked when I found out there was indeed a SHE! Hoping to see offspring soon! Not sure if they mated but I’m really hoping they did :). You may see photos of them via the Flickr link below. The attached picture is of another hummingbird.