Hummingbirds have a rich history. The Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans and fetishes. Their god Huitzilopochtli was often depicted in Hummingbird regalia, which was emblematic for their vigor, and energy, and the beak mimicking weaponry. The talismans giving the idea of potency, skill at arms, and bringing warfare to the wearer.
These flower kissers can live up to at least ten years, though most are crushed in the first year, so a safe residency is key for these little travellers. Since many plants depend upon Hummingbirds as their pollinators, their continued company means a perfect symbiosis. Building a Hummingbird Habitat is both easy and helpful, insuring your landscapes future health, and hours of entertainment. Plus you get a beautiful yard from the deal.
Hummingbirds are specialized nectarivores, besides soft-bodied bugs, such as gnats, spiders, and mosquitos, their main food source is nectar, which is produced by flowering plants to attract pollinators. Hummingbirds pollinate flowers by rubbing their foreheads and faces in each flower as they lap the nectar with their “W” shaped tongues. They can visit up to 1,000 flowers in a day, and since they need to eat from a 1/2 to 8 times their body weight a daily, a well-stoked habitat is key.
Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any homeothermic animal. Since Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, but excellent vision (they love the color red), a habitat of brightly colored, herbaceous perennials, shrubs, trees and vines is required. Just as humans rarely eat the same things each day, hummingbirds like to shop around. It is believed that hummingbirds can remember each flower sipped, and how long till it is ready for a second go. It is also believed they see wavelengths in ultraviolet light, so the more vivid a hue, the more trafficked the blossom. Which makes a gorgeous garden!
To maintain a friendly space for our flitting friends, the addition of a hummingbird feeder is key during times of limited flowering and right before and after their migrations. But the recipe and the caveats around this are real. Hummingbird feeders must be changed out often, especially in hot months, cleaned with boiling hot water, rinsed and thoroughly scrubbed before refilling. Mold, sedimentary deposits, or even fermentation could sicken or kill your fast little gems. The recipe for this nectar is quite simple- a ratio of one part sugar, to four parts water, (20% sugar) is the basics, but use only granulated white sugar, no artificial sweeteners, turbinado, or honey. All are susceptible to fermentation and lead to sickness for the little buddies. Contrary to popular belief, never use red food color,it can poison their tiny kidneys. Fear not, most feeders are covered in bright red and orange plastic and are attractive enough.
Hummingbirds are also an effective exterminator for your garden. Hummingbirds have been known to steal little bugs from a spider’s web, then eat the spider, and finally steal the web for their nest. They delight in aphids, mosquitoes, and gnats. As a Central Texas Gardener, this assistance is much needed. Always avoid using pesticides around our bird buddies, ingesting a bug treated with these substances can kill more than those pesky insects. Besides, the hummingbird is willing to do this job totally for free.
Apart from access to healthy meals, the setup of a habitat is incredibly important to the Hummingbird’s success. Shelter, sunlight, flowers, water for bathing, and space are ideal. Trees and large flowering vines can provide a safe place to perch, sleep, and a great nesting spot. Hummingbirds spend 80% of their lives perched on twigs, branches, etc., as their feet are weak, and they can barely walk. So perching is crucial.
Cozy little nooks are super important. When Hummingbirds sleep, they fall into a hibernation-like state called torpor, which slows down their metabolism and heart rate, and conserves their desperately needed energy as much as up to 60%. Their body temperature drops, and as it can take up to an hour to wake from this condition, hidden nooks, and shady tree limbs are perfect. Hummingbirds have even been found sleeping upside down in Fir Trees. Willows, and Eucalyptus Trees also provide soft materials for their nests. The females build this round, cup-shaped home in branches, and are sometimes attached to leaves.
Space is key for our tiny friends. Hummingbirds can rotate their wings in a full circle, hover in mid air, fly backwards, even sideways, so a well-spaced area is important. They are also very solitary and territorial, turf wars at times can occur (picture West Side Story, or Micheal Jackson’s Beat It. Tiny Leather Jackets.) More space can help avoid more fights than necessary.
Our little gem like friends also love water! A mister, water sprinkler, or water feature gives the hummingbird a place to freshen up, attracts butterflies, moths, and a variety of wildlife to the habitat, encouraging the growth and creation of a varied environment.
Hummingbirds not only pollinate your flowers and vegetables that provide your food, they dine on insects and provide free bug extermination. Their firm commitment to beauty, demands that you and the hummingbirds both exist in a vivid and glorious environment.
A great garden guest, they have no problem providing endless entertainment.
Come join us for our Hummingbird Class February 22nd to learn more on how to make a great environment for our good looking, and hard working buddies, The Hummingbirds.