Looking out the window and seeing hummingbirds is a delightful sight! My family and I enjoy watching them hover briefly and then dart from flower to flower.

The red petunias growing in pots on my deck are a good place to watch for them There are numerous plants in the landscape that hummingbirds visit. Feeders can also be used to attract them. A home-made recipe for the sugar-water solution to place in a feeder is provided.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is found in our area. It usually appears in late April after migrating from Mexico. It returns through September and a few stragglers may remain until early October.

The male’s throat is a brilliant metallic red color while the female has a white throat. Both have metallic green feathers on their backs and wings. The bird is small, measuring only 3.5 inches long.

An average male would weigh about the same as 2.5 paper clips, according to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication “Hummingbirds: An Attractive Asset to Your Garden” written by Dr. Thomas Barnes and available at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/for/for97/for97.pdf or an Extension Office.

A hummingbird is amazing and fun to watch. It beats its wings an average of 53 times per second. It is the only avian species that can fly both backward and upside down. It routinely cruises at about 27 mph.

Their needle-like bill enables them to extract nectar from flowers. Flower nectar provides the hummingbird with a quick source of energy. A bird needs to eat enough nectar to match 100% of its body weight. It also eats small, soft-bodied insects and spiders, especially those found inside the flowers they are visiting for nectar. One female bird can capture up to 2,000 insects a day.

Hummingbirds are attracted to tubular-shaped flowers that are red, pink, or orange. In order to reduce competition among hummingbirds for nectar, design several areas of plants that attract them.

Annual flowering plants bloom throughout the season and serve as a constant source of nectar. Annuals that draw hummingbirds include: petunia (Petunia x hybrida), red salvia (Salvia splendens), snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), zinnia (Zinnia), sweet William (Dianthus), spider flower (Cleome), nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), and flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata). I have also seen hummingbirds attracted to Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ even though the flowers are cobalt blue.

Perennial plants, which return year after year, appeal to hummingbirds too. These include: canna (Canna), beebalm (Monarda didyma), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea), hollyhock (Alcea), red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria), gladiolus (Gladiolus), daylily (Hemerocallis), lily (Lilium), and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Shrubs and a vine that attract hummingbirds include: azalea (Rhododendron), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), flowering quince (Chaenomeles), weigela (Weigelia florida), trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), passionflower (Passiflora incarnate), and trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

Feeders provide another way to attact hummingbirds. When purchasing a feeder, find one that is easy to take apart for cleaning and has lots of red color.

You can make your own sugar-water solution for the hummingbird feeder. Commercial mixes may cost more than homemade and many of them contain preservatives that might harm the birds, according to the publication by Dr. Barnes.

The sugar-water solution is made by mixing four parts water to one part sugar. This is the best ratio because it is about the average amount of sucrose produced in typical flowers that attract hummingbirds.

A solution any stronger could attract butterflies and bees instead. Most flowers that butterflies and bees pollinate have an average nectar content of 42%.

Boil the water and sugar for two minutes to prevent fermentation; fermented solution is bad for the birds. Then cool the mixture and refrigerate. Do not microwave the solution. Microwaving causes a breakdown in the sugar molecule that can change the nutritional value.

If you are having a problem with bees at the feeder, reduce the amount of sugar to a five-to-one ratio. The birds will still use it, but bees probably will not.

Do not add red dye. Some information suggests it can actually harm the birds. Most commercial feeders have sufficient red to attract the birds. Never add honey to the mixture. It will create mold and fungal disease problems.

Active feeders are quickly emptied. If you do not have activity at a feeder for several days, take the feeder down, empty the solution, and replace it with fresh sugar water.

Every week or so, feeders, even active ones, should be taken down and cleaned with a mild soap detergent, rinsed with a bleach solution, and rinsed thoroughly with water. Then refill with fresh sugar-water.

To prevent ants from climbing down the hanger and into the feeder, apply shortening or a commercial “sticky” polybutene repellent to the feeder suspension wire. Then use a portable vacuum cleaner to remove the ants.

Feeders should remain up as long as the hummingbirds are visiting. Migrating hummingbirds may show up by late July and continue passing through until October. You may help a late straggler make the journey. Leaving feeders out will not keep them from migrating back to Mexico.

For more information about hummingbirds, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service by leaving a message at 270-685-8480 or emailing daviess.ext@uky.edu.

Annette’s Tip:

The only way to manage crayfish is to improve soil drainage. They leave annoying chimneys of soil where it is moist or stays wet. No chemical controls are available. With the abundant rainfall, the soil in many areas is very wet, even on hillsides.

 

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