There are 342 species of hummingbirds in the world, but only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird spends the summer in the east and winters from Mexico to Panama.
It’s hard to believe that such little birds have the ability and stamina to migrate from the tropics, either over land through Texas or across the Gulf of Mexico, just to spend the summer in Maryland and other points east. The following tips will help you welcome these small tropic travelers to your backyard, and coax them to set up shop and stay awhile.
Hummingbirds need food, shelter and water just like any other wildlife species. Providing a variety of habitat elements for them beyond a hummingbird feeder will increase the likelihood that hummers will frequent your backyard all summer.
Hummers are the deepthroats of the bird world–at least when it comes to the kinds of flowers they love to visit for nectar. Planting conspicuous displays of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with tubular flowers will greatly enhance your yard. Plan your plantings so that something is blooming during the entire season that hummers are in Maryland–roughly April to September. If space is limited, use window boxes, container gardens and hanging baskets to attract hummers to a porch. Hummers supplement their diet by eating small insects found on these plants.
Another habitat element for hummers includes providing adequate places for perching. Perches can consist of clotheslines, snags or bare tree branches. Hummingbirds use perches for surveying their territory, resting, preening and cleaning their bills after feeding. If you’re lucky, hummingbirds may opt to nest in your backyard to be near the rich natural food supply you’ve offered. Rich food supplies are important for hummingbirds because they eat a tremendous amount for their small size. To illustrate how high their metabolism is consider that if an average man eats about 3,500 calories in a day, a hummingbird the size of a man would consume 155,000 calories!
Finally, water is an important part of any hummingbird habitat. Running or dripping water acts as a lure for warblers as well as hummingbirds for drinking and bathing. Fine spray sprinklers also work well as water attractants.
Trees & Shrubs for Hummers
Tuliptree, Azalea Apple – (nesting) Bearberry – nectar Buttonbush – nectar Blueberries – nectar Butterfly Bush – nectar Weigela – nectar
Beauty Bush – nectar Abelia- nectar
Trumpet creeper, Clematis, Trumpet Honeysuckle (native), Morning Glory, Scarlet Runner Bean
Beebalm, Lily, Cardinal Flower, Snapdragon, Hibiscus, Foxglove, Coral Bells, Nicotiana, Columbine, Bleeding Heart, Delphinium, Canterbury Bell, Phlox, Hollyhock
From Habitchat – Wild Acres Newsletter, Maryland State Department of Naatural Resources