Hummingbirds

Sunday, April 29, 2018 10:30 AM

I am starting to see hummingbirds. How can I attract them to my garden and take better take care of them? DJ

Hummingbirds are the smallest of native birds in North America and are typically about 3 1/2 inches in length weighing only about 1/4 of an ounce. As most of us know, the humming sound is created by their wings, but did you know they average about 55 strokes per second. During courtship, males can exhibit rather dramatic behaviors by ascending and then diving straight down toward either the object of their affection or irritation. When this happens, their wings can beat up to 200 beats per second which creates a louder than normal humming sound as well as a very colorful display of their feathers.

 While many people think hummingbirds use their tongues as we might use a straw to drink, they actually drink via a licking motion at a rate of about 13 licks per second. Hummingbirds also capture small flying insects in the air, especially when raising their young.

All hummingbirds of North America are migratory with the exception of one species found in California. The species found most often in Oklahoma is the ruby throated hummingbird. This hummingbird may travel more than 2000 miles during migration, including 500 non-stop miles over the Gulf of Mexico. To make this journey they must add about half of their body weight in fat before the trip.

With all the energy expended during flight apart from migration, hummingbirds must feed every fifteen minutes during the day in order to survive. So, the best way to attract them to your garden is through nectar producing plants or by providing a supplemental food source. Placing the feeder near your garden will encourage feeding from natural sources.

When placing feeders near the house, be sure to get several feeders and place them some distance apart as hummingbirds can get very territorial and aggressive around a single food source. Also, be sure to use a feeder with a bee and wasp guard, as this will eliminate aggressive competition for nectar between these insects and the hummingbirds. There is no need to be concerned with small insects found at the mouth of the feeder, as they will typically help fulfill the hummingbird’s need for protein.

You can make your own feeding solution using one part granulated sugar to four parts boiling water. Of course, cool the solution before pouring it in the feeder. The use of red food coloring in the solution is both unnecessary and unhealthy for the birds. Feeders should be cleaned every two to three days, especially during warm weather.

 You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Diagnostic Center at 918-746-3701, dropping by the Extension office at 4116 E. 15th Street, or by emailing us at mg@tulsamastergardeners.org.