By Randi Clifford
South Central Master Gardener
You may already know a lot about these beautiful creatures, but it seems like every time I pick up a gardening magazine I find something new to learn about them. Early April is definitely the time to increase your knowledge base so that when they do show up, you’re ready for them.
For several years I have followed the Hummingbirdcentral.com website which records sightings across the United States. What a pleasure it would be to actually participate in the investigation; definitely on my “to do” list. At the time of this article, their migration into the southern part of the United States was ongoing and there have been sightings across Virginia and also in the northern United States. Hummingbirds migrate from Central America and Mexico where they spend their winters. They can fly over 20 miles a day. The eastern part of the United States usually has the ruby-throated hummingbird. Occasionally there are sightings of other species. However, for the most part we are limited to a single species.
Feeding them is really easy and you don’t need a fancy feeder. You can also make your own food too. Skip the red dies and use one part sugar to four parts water. Boil the water, add the sugar, stir to dissolve then leave to cool. You should refrigerate the liquid and then try to use it in about a week. Remember to space out your feeders and try not to place them in direct view of each other. These birds are very territorial and will fight to keep other hummingbirds away from the feeder. Between feedings, you should clean the feeder with warm water. If you start to see mold, you can clean it with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
The best way to keep hummingbirds interested in your property is to supplement feeders with other flowering plants. Native plants are ideal, but other annuals and perennials will work. My garden consists of Phlox, Verbena, Liatris, Fleur Cardinale, Baume d’Abeille, Echinacea, Columbine, Hyssop and Milkweed. To learn more about hummingbirds, Virginia Tech has published several articles on its website. I enjoyed For the Birds, Butterflies and Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats, by Mary Free, 2013.
Last year we spent hours upon hours entertained by over 30 hummingbirds in my garden. There are also plenty of YouTube videos showing how territorial these birds can be. It’s really fun to watch them in action. Grab a drink, sit back and enjoy the entertainment.