“So tiny, so mighty,” I’ve heard people describe our church choir with those phrases. Sometimes we have as few as five or six singing on Sunday, but, if we’re doing a song we know well, we’re able to keep our chins up (at least above our music folders). We’re like hummingbirds, small but mighty.
Dad looks forward to the arrival of his hummers. He marks May 9 as the usual arrival date at the farm. From then on, they keep my brother Jim busy all summer, mixing the sugar mixture to refill their feeders.
I caught some of Ron Wilson’s In the Garden radio show one recent Saturday morning when the topic was hummingbirds and their trek north as they make their way to our neck of the woods. According to Wilson’s show, they will have left their winter haven in South America and they’re headed partway here. The scouts head up the frontline to check out the territory and pass via word of mouth (make that beak) the possibilities.
According to one migration source, hummingbirds manage to fly hundreds — or even thousands — of miles fueled by the nectar from blooming flowers. (Many even make the 20-hour trip over the Gulf of Mexico without any food or rest.) They migrate alone, yet many end up at the same exact feeders or gardens where they spent last spring and summer.
In addition to sugar-water feeders (the fast food of hummingbird fare), a garden of “nectar rich” blooms for attracting the wee wonders won’t go amiss. Look for nectar-rich, tubular blooms, such as those on petunia and salvia. Since hummers feed from plants while hovering, flowers that protrude from a plant’s foliage provide more air space for the bird’s beating wings to clear the plant’s leaves.
Hummingbirds can see red from a great distance. Birds and Blooms magazine suggests “offering nectar-rich flowers in crimson shades should always get their attention”, however; they’ll happily sip from flowers of any hue. The amount of blooms a plant produces also plays a role in attracting the tiny birds. Plants with a long flowering season provide nectar for an extended feeding period.
Some of the top flowers to attract hummers are cosmos, fuchsia, nasturtium and zinnia of the annual variety; bee balm, delphinium, phlox, verbena and veronica of the perennial persuasion, and canary vine, clematis and morning glory as the creepers. Jeepers! That just names a few!
Two species of hummingbirds are tracked each spring, the ruby-throated and the rufous. In the western U.S. and Canada, the rufous hummingbird travels the farthest north of any hummingbird to breed — all the way to Alaska. When ruby-throated hummingbirds return to nest in the U.S. and Canada this spring, they will have just completed a remarkable journey back from Mexico and Central America.
Though they have such stamina, they are so light you could mail 10 of the tiny dynamos with one stamp! These remarkable birds will appreciate your food and flowers to welcome them back!