Sunday, April 29, 2018 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Attracting Hummingbirds Using Feeders and Flowers

Attracting Hummingbirds
Tom Ingram: Ask a Master Gardner
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Q: I am starting to see hummingbirds. How can I attract them to my garden and take better take care of them? DJ
A: Humming birds are the smallest of native birds in North America and are typically about 3½ inches in length, weighing only about ¼ of an ounce. As most of us know, the humming sound is created by their wings, but did you know they average about 55 strokes per second?
During courtship, males can exhibit rather dramatic behaviors by ascending and then diving straight down toward either the object of their affection or irritation. When this happens, their wings can beat up to 200 beats per second, which creates a louder than normal humming sound, as well as a colorful display of their feathers.
While many people think hummingbirds use their tongues as we might use a straw to drink, they actually drink via a licking motion at a rate of about 13 licks per second. Hummingbirds also capture small flying insects in the air, especially when raising their young.
All hummingbirds of North America are migratory with the exception of one species found in California. The species found most often in Oklahoma is the ruby throated hummingbird. This hummingbird may travel more than 2,000 miles during migration, including 500 nonstop miles over the Gulf of Mexico. To make this journey, they must add about half of their body weight in fat before the trip.
With all the energy expended during flight apart from migration, hummingbirds must feed every 15 minutes during the day to survive. So, the best way to attract them to your garden is through nectar-producing plants or by providing a supplemental food source. Placing the feeder near your garden will encourage feeding from natural sources.
When placing feeders near the house, be sure to get several feeders and place them some distance apart as hummingbirds can get territorial and aggressive around a single food source. Also, be sure to use a feeder with a bee and wasp guard, as this will eliminate aggressive competition for nectar between these insects and the hummingbirds. There is no need to be concerned with small insects found at the mouth of the feeder, as they will typically help fulfill the hummingbird’s need for protein.
You can make your own feeding solution using one part granulated sugar to four parts boiling water. Of course, cool the solution before pouring it in the feeder. The use of red food coloring in the solution is unnecessary and unhealthy for the birds. Feeders should be cleaned every two to three days, especially during warm weather.

Garden tips
  • Prune and feed all of the spring-blooming shrubs, such as azaleas and forsythia immediately after blooming, if needed. Azaleas need less fertilizer than many shrubs and often a yearly addition of mulch, as it decays, it will add all the nutrients they need.
  • Cool-season lawns — tall fescue and bluegrass — can be fertilized again. If you did not fertilize in March and April, do so now. Do not fertilize these grasses in summer.
  • Seeding and sodding of warm-season grasses, such as bermudagrass, Buffalograss and zoysiagrass, is best performed in mid-May through the end of June. The soil temperatures are warm enough for germination and growth. These grasses need a long summer growing season to promote winter hardiness.


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