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Hummingbirds Add To Garden Setting
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Spring has many beautiful signs to announce its arrival each year, but none are more fascinating than the sight of a hummingbird darting from flower to flower.
Many Southerners provide special feeders to get an occasional glimpse of the tiny birds before they migrate back to their winter homes in Mexico and Central America.
People who set out feeders assume a certain amount of responsibility for these delicate birds. People who are not willing to keep fresh feed in a frequently cleaned container should consider planting a hummingbird garden instead.
Norman Winter, extension horticulturist, said home gardens can attract hummingbirds by providing the birds' favorite flowers. Welcome hummingbirds to a backyard by selecting a variety of plants that flower at successively later dates.
"Hummingbirds love brightly colored flowers, especially red, orange and pink. Nectar-producing flowers that bloom during the birds' migration in spring and again in late summer and early fall attract them to an area," Winter said.
The horticulturist said hummingbirds have almost no sense of smell, so the flowers they are attracted to often are not very fragrant. Birds look for bright colors and high nectar production characteristics.
These unusual creatures display many unique abilities that make them wonderful to watch. A hummingbird's wings can rotate 180 degrees up, down, forward and back, which means the bird can hover, fly backward and ascend vertically. The creatures commonly beat their wings 50 to 70 times per second. Their metabolism is quite fast and their energy requirements are high.
Planting a hummingbird garden is a good way to ensure the birds have adequate food sources in a single yard. A variety of flowering trees, shrubs, vines and flowers satisfies hummingbirds and results in a beautiful landscape for owners to enjoy.
"Azaleas, flowering quince, red buckeye, lantana and mimosa attract hummingbirds. The larger trees are especially beneficial because they can feed dozens of birds at once while they are blooming," Winter said.
"The tubular red flowers of trumpet vines are very attractive to hummingbirds. Chinese trumpet creeper and common trumpet creeper are both good flowering vines the birds love to sip nectar from," he said.
Hummingbirds also will flock to red trumpeted honeysuckle, coral honeysuckle, cypress vine and morning-glories.
"There are many beautiful perennials and annuals to plant in flower beds to make your lawn a hummingbird headquarters," Winter said.
"Among the perennials that attract hummingbirds with their colorful blooms are four-o-clocks, hosta, bee balm, canna, cardinal flower, little cigar and penstemon.
"Some good annuals that thrive in Mississippi and attract hummingbirds are petunias, impatiens, red salvia, scarlet sage, beard tongue and shrimp plant," Winter said.
Hummingbirds get most of their energy from flower nectar and sugar water they find in feeders, but they also eat soft-bodied insects and spiders for protein.
"Don't use pesticides around hummingbird plants. Besides killing garden pests, the pesticides may also eliminate the small insects hummingbirds need," Winter said. Hummingbirds could become sick or die if they directly ingest pesticides sprayed onto flowers.