Planting for Hummingbirds
Who doesn’t love hummingbirds in their garden? You may already set up hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water, but feeders can require a lot of maintenance, as they must be kept cleaned and filled with fresh food. A
better option might be to plant native flowers to attract hummingbirds.
As a general rule, hummingbirds like the color red which is why most hummingbird feeders are red, or have red feeding tubes. Sometimes you can buy pre-made hummingbird food which is dyed red, but please don’t buy this as it can be fatal to the birds. Cardinal Flower and Bee Balm are both bright red flowers that attract hummingbirds and they are exactly what hummingbirds want and need. Bee Balm, also known as Bergamot, has another use after it stops flowering — you can dry Bergamot leaves, crush them and use them as a replacement for oregano.
Lupine is a beautiful purple flower that is easy to grow. In some parts of the country it almost grows like a weed, and you’ll see it in highway ditches. Lupine is a low-maintenance flower that will brighten your yard and attract hummingbirds.
No space for a garden? Any of these flowers will grow wonderfully in a window box or ceramic pot — just put them on your balcony where hummingbirds can see them.
Planting native flowers around your home that offer hummingbirds nectar, is fun to do, and will keep those hummingbirds coming to your house all summer long. For more native planting ideas, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
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Right now the northern states are blanketed in snow, and stepping outside can be hazardous. Winter temperatures can dip below zero degrees Farenheit, and the wind chill pushes far below that. We can throw on layers or stay inside, but what do the birds do? How can we help birds brave the winter onslaught of freezing temperatures and battering snow?
Birds can make it through the winter without our help, but many people provide their bird visitors with a heated bird bath. Open water is hard to find in winter, and by providing birds with a constant source of water you will attract more birds to your yard. Some birds (not all) will eat snow, but the amount of energy it takes to process this snow into water is high.
So, you can make life easier for your backyard visitors with a watering dish that does not freeze over. You don’t need to buy a brand new bird bath – you can buy a small heater that you leave inside your current bird bath with an extension cord. But, it is a good idea to use some caution when using a heated bird bath as well. When temperatures drop too far, a bird’s feathers can freeze after taking a bath or even from the steam that comes up from the birdbath. This can be dangerous for the bird, even resulting in death.
Laura Erickson of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some good recommendations on how to deal with this problem. Here is a link to an article on her new book, “The Bird Watching Answer Book, Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Birds in Your Backyard and Beyond“.
Here is the paragraph specifically regarding heated bird baths:
In a section titled “Birds Don’t Need Hot Tubs,” Erickson states: “I would never use a heated bath when temperatures were below about 20 degrees to prevent steam from coating feathers.” She recommends placing a grill made of wooden dowel rods over a heated bath to prevent bathing while allowing access for drinking. If the bird bath is frozen, Laura sets out a small plastic container of water near the bird food in the morning and brings it in when it freezes.
So, while a heated bird bath can make your backyard a winter birding bonanza, you also must keep the safety of your feathered friends in mind. Cornell has some suggestions on setting up a birdbath which can help both you and make the winter a better time for year for your backyard visitors.
Songbirds who migrate at night have long been thought to migrate north to breed then south again to molt and overwinter. That makes sense, right? But, the times they are a changing. Now researchers from the University of Washington have discovered that there are some birds who make a stop in Mexico on the way down south, not to rest and molt, but to start a second family for the season. Known as “migratory double breeding”, this is the first instance of it in the new World, and the first time it has been documented anywhere in a southerly migration. The species researchers discovered taking part in this were Yellow-billed cuckoos, Orchard orioles, Hooded orioles, Yellow-breasted chats and Cassin’s vireos.
The entire article can be found in Science Daily
Peterson Guide content copyright © 2009 by The Marital Trust B u/w Roger Tory Peterson
The storms this week that brought rain and cooler weather also brought a lot of migratory birds into our city garden. Today was a busy day in the early afternoon for about an hour when one bird after another came to grab some food and a drink from our fountain. At one point the fountain had an avian traffic jam with a Robin, several Catbirds, a Hermit Thrush and three Cardinals (I believe our Cardinal family from this year), all trying to get their space at the watering hole. At one point we saw a Towhee, and that is when I got out the camera. When I saw the sparrow as I wasn’t sure if it was a Chipping sparrow or White-throated. The Towhee came and went, but the Catbirds, Sparrows and Hermit Thrush all stayed close by the window for their close-ups.
I had the pleasure of visiting Little St. Simon’s Island again this year. A barrier island off the Georgia coast, even with a small lodge, it remains a wild place and offers great birding. Right now it is a wonderful place to hone shorebird identification skills. I find shorebirds daunting to identify and so I try to focus on a learning a few more each time I visit a shorebird haven. LSSI is one of those havens with big wild and windy beaches and this time of year it is full of shorebirds. There were black bellied plovers, sanderlings, 3 endangered piping plovers, many marbled godwits, dunlins, dowitchers, killdeer, Caspian and royal terns to name a few. A single curlew stood out head and shoulders above the crowd. There were also hundreds of red knots. This gives slight hope that these birds may have a fighting chance.
The migration of the red knot is arduous – some fly over 9000 miles in one direction – breaking the migration into 1500 mile segments. Relying on arrival at the Delaware Bay beaches just as the horseshoe crab population begins releasing eggs, these birds, exhausted from their long migration gorge on these eggs and it is essential to their continued survival as they need to double their depleted weight in just a couple of days to continue on their way. But, horseshoe crabs are also cheap bait and in recent years have been “harvested” in such enormous quantities that their populations are crashing. This is not good for the primitive horseshoe crab, which has managed to live in abundance for 350 million years, and it also spells destruction for the red knot. Recently, several key states where horseshoe crabs are “harvested” have instituted a moratorium on these harvests. New Jersey has kept this moratorium in place, but the courts in Delaware rejected it, bowing to the interests of the Delaware Bay fishermen who wanted to use these crabs for bait.
The Red knot’s decline has been precipitous – from 100,000 20 years ago to around 13,000 in recent years. In a story that seems almost too impossible to be true, an entire species of bird and a prehistoric marine creature, whose very lives are tied together, may both become extinct because there was insufficient interest in finding alternate types of bait for fishermen in the Delaware Bay.
You can help by sending an email or letter to the Governor of Delaware asking him to please reinstitute the moratorium on horseshoe crab “harvests”.
Many parts of the country are experiencing seriously cold weather now. For wild birds that means a hardship trying to find water that they can drink as most of it is frozen over. In cold weather, wild birds can get dehydrated and that’s why you sometimes see birds in the street gutters trying to drink the horrible stuff there that has been mixed with antifreeze or other potentially poisonous things. But it is available liquid, and so when they are thirsty and everything else is frozen over…well any port in a storm.
If you can make fresh water available in your yard or in the city on your balcony or roofdeck. This can make a huge difference to the birds and animals living outside. I live in a city and as soon as the temperatures get near freezing I set out the “heated” birdbath. My friends think I am running a spa for birds with hot baths in winter, but the truth is this really is a lifeline for wild birds when all exposed water is frozen over.
Basically these bird baths or waterers keep the temperature of the water above freezing so it is never iced over. They come in varying designs from pedestals, ground standing and deck mounts with the heater built in, to separate heating units you can put into an existing bath. You can get solar powered heated baths for around $20. The ones that run on electricity aren’t terribly inexpensive (plus you’ll need an extension cord and outside electrical outlet), but if you want to help wild birds in the winter, this is a great investment. Plus you can watch them gather in your backyard or on your deck when there is no other place for them to find drinkable water!
Wild animals also need water and the ground baths are a good way for them to be able to easily get hydrated during freezing weather.
There are all kinds of heated baths, but my favorites are found at Duncraft. We have the one pictured above, and it is in constant use on our roof deck – from pigeons to mockingbirds, cardinals, jays, and crows. All our flighted neighbors stop by during the day for a drink when all the other bars are closed due to ice.