A magnificent flyer and beautiful creature, the hummingbird got its name from the humming noise that can be heard as it is flapping its wings. With wings that can beat from 8 to 80 beats per second, while maintaining flight and head control, truly a wonder. The awe from watching a hummingbird fly is like watching an alien species take flight in your backyard.
Featured Image by Brigitte makes custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay
A Unique Species
With the ability to fly forwards, backwards, sideways, and any other way you can think of, other birds appear clumsy after watching these wonders. With the flight style more of an insect than a bird the first time seeing one of these may require a second look.
Wide variety of species
With 360 species of hummingbirds in existence today the variety of color and habitats spans most of the western hemisphere. A majority of the population lives near the equatorial belt between 10ºN and 10ºS.
Hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of all species with the exception of insects. While flying the hummingbirds heart rate can beat up to 1,260 beats per minute, with a breathing rate of 250 breaths per minute. The oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is 10% higher than that of an elite human athlete. That is a lot!
Through a balanced diet and method called torpor, the hummingbird has figured out the right way to maintain the insanely high rate of energy burnt while surviving. Torpor is similar to an animal going into hibernation state, in hummingbirds this process is used to conserve energy. They will go into this state at night, cutting the energy consumed to 1/15 of normal function by lowering all physiological activities.
Maintaining the right mixture of bugs and nectar is vital to this process. Hummingbirds need a little different mixture of minerals and vitamins than we do as humans. Find out what they eat in the next section.
Knowing what food hummingbirds enjoy eating will only increase your chances of attracting this beautiful fast winged flyer to your yard. If you are able to attract the food source the animal will come.
Insects, spiders, and larvae
So what do they eat? Of course most people already know nectar, but did you know hummingbirds enjoy munching on larvae, smaller insects and spiders. An adult hummingbird will eat up to two dozen insects a day, possibly more if they are in for a long migration or feeding little ones. Insects provide the bird with fat, salts, and much needed protein that cannot be found in nectar.
While floral nectar is scarce, hummingbirds will use taps drilled by woodpeckers to get sap. The tree sap isn’t as sweet as the regular flower diet however, it will get them by in a “sticky” situation.
Some varieties of hummingbirds have been known to eat on juicy fruits, they may attract the hummingbirds. However, in our neck of the woods you would get more flies than anything.
How to attract hummingbirds
1. Plant a garden
The best and most ecological friendly way is find native flowering plants high in nectar and plant a large garden, attracting mother nature to your backyard.
True Leaf Market and Eden Brothers offer a specialized hummingbird seed mix, this is the easiest way to get a jump start on your hummingbird garden. Most seed mix varieties are best planted in the spring after last frost or if planted in the fall will remain dormant through the winter.
True Leaf Market
This mix contains Butterfly Milkweed, Chinese Forget Me Not, Columbine, Snapdragon, Aster, Cosmos, Larkspur, Foxglove , Bird’s Eye, Toadflax, Alyssum, Four O’ Clock-Marvel, Lemon Mint, Maltese Cross, Jasmine, Poppy, Penstemon, Sage, Catchfly, Marigold, Nasturtium, Zinnia, & Treemallow.
Grow a beautiful, colorful wildflower garden with our National Hummingbird & Butterfly … [More]
This mix contains White Yarrow, Amaranthus Green Thumb, Cornflower White, White Dutchess Aster, Cosmos Purity, Shasta Daisy, Zinnia Polar Bear/Zinnia Envy, Bishop Flower
Green with Envy Flower Seed Mix These flowers are friends to butterflies, hummingbirds,… [More]
2. Leave the bugs
Let me ask you to step into a situation with me, there you are at a buffet and the chef comes out and takes all the crab legs away. His reasoning, he doesn’t like crab legs. Now same situation except you’re a hummingbird in a backyard buffet watching a human swipe away a perfectly good meal that could feed you and your little ones in the nest.
By not spraying for bugs and leaving spider nests up you attract other natural predators to these things and allow mother nature to take care of it. Hummingbirds use bugs as a large source of protein in their diet and is completely essential. If a hummingbird is well fed when it leaves your yard the chances of it returning are much much higher.
3. Make a perch
Hummingbirds are very territorial animals. Once they have located a good food source they will protect and defend it from other animals. Giving them a pleasant place to perch will not only protect them from any predators that may be out to get them but it will give them a good vantage point to watch over the kingdom of your backyard.
Yes, I know it’s an owl. But it’s a picture of a bird perching….
What flowers do hummingbirds not like?
TheSpruce.com covers a wide variety of information on what to look for and what not to look for in a flower to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Using a Hummingbird Feeder
Only use granulated white sugar & water in your hummingbird feeder.
Why only granulated white sugar?
Granulated white sugar is produced by extracting the molasses from raw sugar. Giving it it’s pure white color. Once the molasses is extracted the sugar contains only around 4 grams of carbs per tablespoon, while containing none of the other minerals and vitamins naturally found in sugar. (aka why it is so bad for us). For the hummingbird this is a benefit as one of the minerals that is stripped is Iron.
Hummingbirds have a low tolerance for iron in their diet. Any excess dietary iron is stored in their liver and can be toxic to the liver cells in larger quantities.
A location in Arizona was feeding hummingbirds a manufactured nectar, this nectar contained too high of an iron content and within three months 25 of the 26 hummingbirds had died due to iron toxicosis. Since then testing has been implemented to ensure commercial products are safe for use. However, the birds do not benefit from any of the coloring or flavoring added to these products. It is simpler and safer to make your own. Using 4 parts water and 1 part granulated white sugar has been the go to recipe for years with the most success in attracting and feeding hummingbirds.
Brown sugar is produced through adding molasses to granulated white sugar. Molasses is high in iron concentration and would be too large a source of iron for the hummingbird to process.
Raw/Organic & Turbinado
Usually made with the process of squeezing the juices of raw sugar cane and spinning it in a tumbler. It still contains a high amount of vitamins and minerals, good for us, not so good for the little flapping friend. Avoid putting this one in your feeder.
Honey in your feeder
While there is no scientific evidence to support the claims, it just brings up another point to only use granulated white sugar in your hummingbird feeder. The “word” is that using honey in your feeder can cause a fermentation to occur, allowing the growth of dangerous bacteria. This can then travel into the hummingbirds beak and cause an infection, preventing the bird from being able to eat nectar, in turn ending any chance of survival for the hummingbird. Please only use sugar and water in your feeder.
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Keep mother nature alive and prospering, your own livelihood depends on it.
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