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Hummingbirds and Gardening for Them

Since the mid-1980s, Yvonne has maintained a registered NWF backyard wildlife habitat where a variety of birds, insects, and frogs abound.

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How to Create a Hummingbird Garden and Information About Hummingbirds

Who wouldn't want to attract hummingbirds to their yard? Hummingbird feeders will help bring them into view, but to sustain them it is necessary to provide nectar plants for them. Planting a Hummingbird Garden full of nectar rich flowering plants will also attract butterflies and other pollinators. The following recommended plants will do well in the Lower Gulf Coast region where the weather is hot and humid, but since many are native to the U.S., will grow well in other parts of the country, too.

Please use the table of contents to quickly visit a particular part of this lengthy article.

You'll find plenty of information about attracting and feeding hummingbirds as well as about the breeding cycle and migration habits. There are many photographs of those beautiful flying jewels and the plants that they love, too. You'll even find something about hummingbird moths and festivals here.

All photographs are the property of Al and Y.L. Bordelon - All rights reserved

Male Ruby-Throated Bugging

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Hummingbird Facts

Hummingbirds are marvelous and interesting little creatures.

We never tire of watching their antics. The Hummingbird.net lists 17 species of hummingbirds in the United States. The largest on the list is the Blue-throated weighing in at 8.4 g for the male and 6.8 g for the female. The second largest (and some people think it's a tie) is the Magnificent Hummingbird weighing in at 7.7 g for the male and 6.4 g for the female. The smallest is the Calliope Hummingbird weighing in at 2.5 g for the male and 2.83 g for the female.

The most common hummingbird in Louisiana and most of the Eastern United States is the Ruby-throated. It is a medium sized bird measuring 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) long and weighing about 1/8 ounce (3.1 g). These are the only hummingbirds that breed in the Eastern United States.

Hummingbird Nest

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Male Taking Flight

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Hummingbird nests are tiny, about the size of half a walnut and are very well camouflaged with lichen, spider webs and plant down. The female builds the nest on a branch of a small tree, very often over or near a body of water. She rears the young all by herself, while the male does important stuff like defending his favorite patch of flowers or feeder.

In Louisiana we begin seeing the first fledglings in early June. They are as big as the parents (bigger than the male who is the smaller of the pair). You can tell fledglings from the adults by the way they act and also by the yellow "gape" on the corner of their mouth. All the immature hummingbirds look like the female, but the young males have a "5 o'clock shadow" like stippling on their throat and often a few red feathers will also be present. Soon the young males are staking out their own territory containing a patch of their favorite flowers or feeder.

Female

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Immature Male Ruby-Throated

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These and most of the other hummingbird photos that you see on this page are available in our Naturally Native Gallery on Zazzle. Just click on the photo to take you there.

The adult males are the first to leave in late summer on their trip to their wintering grounds in Central America. The females and the immature birds leave later and by October most of the North American Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have left N.A.

   

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Mizell's Butterfly and Hummingbird Extravaganza

Each September, on the Saturday after Labor Day, Mizell Farms welcomes butterfly and hummingbird lovers to their nursery for the annual Butterfly and Hummingbird Festival. This is the peak time for the fall migration of our Ruby-throated hummingbirds and a time when the butterflies are plentiful. Events include speakers, hummingbird banding, visiting the butterfly house, touring the nature trail, plant related activities for the children, a butterfly release, food and several booths operated by local vendors. The festival is a great "one tank" family trip for anyone who lives in the Gulf South.

For more information about this fun, family festival in Folsom, LA visit our Mizell's Butterfly and Hummingbird Extravaganza lens.

Hummingbird Nest from Egg to Fledging

Hummingbird Moth on Wild Bergamot

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Hummingbird Moth on Pickerel Weed

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Is It a Baby Hummingbird or a Moth?

One may think there's a tiny little baby hummingbird flying among the flowers, but more than likely it's a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. This moth will feed during the day and it's shape, coloration and scaleless wings give it the appearance of a small hummingbird. There are two common varieties of this attractive and interesting member of the Sphinx moth family.

The two types of North American Hummingbird Moths are very hard to tell apart. One type is the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, which (as you can tell by its name) resembles a small hummingbird. The other is the Snowberry Clearwing Moth which actually looks more like a large bumblebee, than a hummingbird. The ranges of both species overlap quite a bit, so you can have both in a given location.

Here are a couple of photos of the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth by naturegirl7:

Rufous Female

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Buff-Bellied

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Winter Hummingbirds in the South


Rufous Female Hummingbird by naturegirl7

Not all hummingbirds migrate all the way to Central America. In Louisiana and in other states along the Gulf Coast, western species of hummingbirds like Rufous, Allens, Calliope, Buff-bellied, Black-chinned, Anna's and an occasional immature Ruby-throat spend the winter. We call these our "winter hummingbirds". We leave our feeders up all year long and some of the plants that we have in our garden are planted especially for these little visitors.

From August through the winter months, the hummingbird lists are buzzing with sightings of "winter" hummingbirds in people's yards. A hummingbird that stays after November 15 is officially counted as a winter hummingbird. There is even a tally kept of the first observed and the last observed sightings.

Some hummingbird gardeners go to great lengths to accommodate their winter visitors and have been known to construct "greenhouses" of plastic on a large roll that can be rolled out over the blooming plants when a freeze warning is out and then rolled back up when the freeze is over. We plant winter hummer plants close to the house and in protected areas and we also enclose a little carport on the south side of the house in plastic that can be raised or lowered depending on the temperature. Yes, we love our hummers.

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Hummingbird Food

Hummingbirds drink nectar from plants, but they also get a lot of nutrition from the tiny insects that they eat, especially during breeding season. Flowering and fruiting plants, like Pear trees, can attract these tiny insects. Putting out banana peels or starting a compost pile are other easy ways to provide tiny insects for hummingbirds. Misting water features that wet the leaves of nearby plants will also provide moist places that both tiny insects and hummers like.

Fall Migration

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Hummingbird feeders come in all shapes and sizes and have plenty of red parts to attract hummers. It is unnecessary and may even be harmful to add red food coloring to the sugar water solution. The premixed varieties that you buy in the store are more expensive and most have harmful, red coloring added.

It is much better all around to mix your own "hummingbird juice" using a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part white, granulated sugar. It does not have to be boiled. We just use tap water and mix it in a large measuring cup, then pour it right into the feeders with no mess.

Hummer juice can ferment and the feeders should be refilled each week (sooner during hot weather). Feeders should be cleaned with a mild chlorine bleach solution when they start to look cloudy or moldy. Don't soak the plastic or metal parts more than an hour or they will become brittle or corroded. Rinse well after soaking. There are also special brushes on the market if you feel the need to get them REALLY clean, but keep in mind that as soon as the first little flying jewel sticks its tongue in, bacteria has been introduced. Such is the way of nature.

Migration Oil Painting

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And the humming-bird that hung

Like a jewel up among

The tilted honeysuckle horns

They mesmerized and swung

In the palpitating air,

Drowsed with odors strange and rare.

And, with whispered laughter, slipped away

And let him hanging there.

James Whitcomb Riley

from The South Wind and the Sun

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Perky Pet 8 oz. Feeder

This is the feeder that we use the most. In fact we have about 20 of them. The parts are interchangeable, so when one breaks, you can cannibalize it. During breeding season, the 8 oz. capacity is enough, but during migration, we more up to the larger sizes.

The Hummingbird

by Fiona McKimmy

Came the spring, I picked a corner and

set my mind to making a flower

garden in the midst of this mass of

weeds unattended through

Winters toughening of the soil.

I tilled, and pulled, and turned, and broke, and bled...

The soil was perfect now...

But, alas! The puppy was fervent in her efforts to help me dig!

So I cut, and I sawed, and I nailed,

and created the most beautiful little picket fence with a gate.....

and planted a tree......

and planted my flowers...

and tended and watered and weeded

and nurtured all through the Spring and Summer months....

To this day, this perfect Autumn morning,

while standing in my doorway,

sipping that first cup of coffee....

I saw the fast-beating wings of that little faerie,

flitting from flower to flower...

was all worth it in that one moment.

Hummingbirds by the Pond Oil Painting

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Nectar Plants to Grow - In the Hummingbird Garden

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Gardening for Hummers


Red-Violet Louisiana Iris by naturegirl7

Our garden is an old fashioned garden that contains very few of the new hybrid plant varieties. We choose to sing the song of the lazy gardener so we stick to natives and easy to grow heirloom plants. Perennials and self-sowing annuals planted in mass predominate among the foundation of trees and shrubs. Plants are chosen for their high nectar content and tubular flowers so that both hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the garden.

Cypress Vine

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Small Red Morning Glory

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By using plants that are acclimated to our climate, the use of pesticides is unnecessary. In fact, pesticides, and herbicides are strongly discouraged. Instead organic and sustainable gardening techniques are used that take advantage of the natural cycle of life. During the spring and summer breeding ruby throats build their walnut sized nests along tree-lined waterways. At summer's end fall migration begins bringing thousands of hummingbirds through our area on their way south.

Good Plants


Ruby-throat Joy Postcard by naturegirl7

The following easy to grow plants will provide nectar for both hummers and butterflies from spring to fall. Pesticide free specimens of most of these can be found locally at nurseries, however, some are pass along plants that you may have to get from a friend.

Mimosa

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Red Bud

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Trees

Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)deciduous tree, full sun or under story, blooms early summer.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) - native deciduous, sun to part sun, blooms in very early spring



Redbud (Cercis canadensis) - deciduous native tree, full sun or understory, blooms early spring.

Taiwan Cherry Blossoms

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Taiwan Cherry Tree (Prunus spp.) - imported small deciduous tree, sun to part sun, blooms magenta colored flowers in very early spring



Witch Hazel

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Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) - native large shrub or small tree, deciduous, part sun-shade, blooms in winter

Native Honeysuckle Azalea

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Wild Blueberry

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Shrubs

Azalea, Native - native shrub, part sun, deciduous, sweet smelling, blooms in spring



Blueberry, Wild & Cultivated, Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) - native, semi-evergreen, sun to part sun, blooms in very early spring

Red Buckeye

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Coral Bean

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Buckeye, Red (Aesculus pavia) - native large shrub, small tree, part shade, deciduous, blooms in early spring

Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea) - native shrub, full sun, winter die back, blooms in mid spring

Firebush

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Fire Spike

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Firebush  (Hamelia patens) - shrub, full sun, winter die back, blooms summer - fall

Firespike (Odontonema strictum) - winter die back, part sun/shade, blooms late summer-fall

Orange Abutilon

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Red Hybrid Abutilon

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Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictum, A. hybrididum) - shrub, partial shade, blooms spring - fall

Lemon Bottlebrush

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Mexican Cigar

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Lemon Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) - Large evergreen shrub, full sun, blooms whenever it's not freezing.

Mexican Cigar (Cuphea micropetala) - small shrub, some winter die back, full sun, blooms spring - fall

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) - large shrub / small tree, full sun, blooms in summer

Sasanqua (Camellia sasanqua) - imported evergreen shrub to small tree, part sun, blooms in fall

Winter Shrimp Plant

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Mexican Shrimp

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Summer Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana and Winter (Justicia spp.) - small shrub, winter die back, full sun, blooms spring - fall

Turk's Cap and Sulfur Butterfly

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Texas Star Hibiscus

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Sultan's Turban (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) - native shrub, some winter die back, full sun-shade, blooms summer - fall

Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) - native shrub, tolerates wet areas, winter die back, full sun, blooms summer - fall

Sweet Olive

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Winter Honeysuckle

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Sweet Olive (Osmanthus frangrans) - imported, evergreen large shrub or small tree, blooms fall through spring in warm climates

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) - imported, passalong weeping shrub, evergreen in warm climates, part sun to sun, blooms winter to early spring

Blue Jamaican Vervain

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Coral Jamaican Vervain

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Jamaican Vervain (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) Tropical shrub that will come back after a winter kill most of the time. Coral and blue spikes of flowers from spring until a freeze.

Crossvine

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Firecracker Vine

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Vines

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) - native, evergreen, sun to part sun, blooms in early spring

Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) - annual, full sun, blooms late summer - fall

Firecracker Vine (Manettia cordifolia) - perennial, full sun/part shade, blooms early summer - fall

Hummingbird Gardens

Coral Honeysuckle

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Trumpet Vine

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Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) - perennial, full sun/part shade, blooms spring and fall

Trumpet Vine - native, full sun, blooms spring-summer, spreads rapidly and can be invasive

Cardinal Flower

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Indian Pink

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Perennials and Annuals

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), native perennial, likes moist areas, part sun, blooms late summer - fall

Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) - native perennial, part sun, blooms

mid spring - summer

Jewelweed

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Spotted Jewelweed (Impatien capensis) - native annual in the Impatiens family, moist shade, blooms mid summer until frost. The leaves are used in soap to make a poison ivy remedy.

Salvia coccinea

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Anise Sage

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Anise Sage (Salvia guaranitica), Lady in Red or Coral Nymph (S. coccinea), Mexican Bush Sage (S. leucantha), Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) - perennials, full sun to part shade, blooms spring - fall

Winged Jewel

Unknown

With wings spun of silver and hearts of gold,

These tiny creatures our hearts behold.

With angelic features and colors so bright,

Make even the heaviest heart seem light.

The magical way they flit through the sky,

They appear, then vanish in the blink of an eye.

They're sending a message for us to retrieve,

Anything's possible for those who believe!

The Wildlife Gardener's Guide to Hummingbirds and Songbirds..

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Jewelled coryphee

With quivering wings like shielding gauze outspread.

Ednah Proctor Clarke (Hayes) from Humming-Bird

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Hummingbirds of North America The Photographic Guide

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The Hummingbirds

by Charlotte Smith

Minutest of the feathered kind,

Possessing every charm combined,

Nature, in forming thee, designed

A proof within how little space

She can comprise such perfect grace,

Rendering the lovely; fairy race

Hummingbird YouTube vids

Ode to a Hummingbird

by Laurence Overmire

Light shot through diaphanous wing

Fifty beats per second

Its long beak dipped in the flower of