In this series, I'm going to help you create a low-maintenance, perennial hummingbird garden. In Part 1, I'm going to tell you just how amazing hummingbirds are and why you want them in your life.
It may be under six feet of snow, but it's already time to be thinking about your summer garden. I've already started to plot out new gardens and placed orders for seeds and fruit trees. A large part of my decision making process is what wildlife the flowers will attract.
I think that one of the best parts about a garden is having guests over to enjoy it - so why not invite some desirable wildlife and spice things up a bit? It doesn't get much spicier than the humming bird.
Flying at speeds of 40-50 km/h (25-30 mph) with a heart rate of 1200 beats per minute while feeding (250 beats per minute when resting!), these guests are the very definition of exciting! And most North American gardens can be made to invite these exciting guests for frequent visits.
In normal flight their wings beat 75 times per second and during courtship climb to an astonishing 200 times per second.
At these speeds, a humming sound is produced - hence their name. I often hear a hummingbird before spotting it. (Check out this video we took last summer from our garden!)
Hummingbirds are such deft little pilots that they can fly backwards, upside down and even hover. Few other birds come close to matching that skill set.
Hummers also have less obvious abilities. They have very discriminating vision; Not only seeing things at great distances, but also a wider spectrum of colour than we are used to. They can perceive well into the ultraviolet range!
Within this range, there's no question the colour red is their favourite. They're particularly attracted to red, along with oranges and bright pinks, though they will feed from flowers of different colours as well.
And let's not forget - They are the absolute smallest known warm-blooded animal on the planet! Male ruby throated hummers weigh only 2.4 - 3.6 grams! And yet as small as they are, they will arrive at your garden with an appetite. These tiny nectavores boast the fastest metabolism of any animal on earth. They burn food energy so fast they regularly eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight in food per day! This is no easy feat - They must visit hundreds of flowers every day just to stay alive. Hummingbirds burn so much energy they are considered to be continuously hours away from starving to death. In fact they are only able to store enough energy to survive overnight!
So let's help keep their bellies full with a well stocked garden, shall we?
Hummingbirds are quite smart. They are capable of remembering places and individual people year to year - they return to the same spot in our garden, by the lilac, where I've been growing hummingbird attracting flowers, and now prefer them to the hummingbird feeder that hangs from the lilac itself.
Establish a hummingbird garden and you'll be supporting generations of highly entertaining guests for years to come! Stay tuned for Part 2!