Well, it's that time of year again. Fresh smells of spring are in the air, puddles and lakes are forming across the fields and geese are splashing around in them. These are always the first signs that spring is just around the corner.
What comes next? That all depends if you are a serious birder or not. Robins will soon appear across the entire nation, Goldfinches will color the skies with their beauty and song, and many other songbirds will dazzle us with their skills. But if you're anything like me, you will be waiting for that one special thing that completes the season-the arrival of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird.
Everything about Springtime is endearing. The sights, sounds and smells just tease our emotions to wanting more, but in North America, Spring just wouldn't be complete without hummingbirds dancing around our gardens. These birds are unique and special in so many ways, and they complete a season that's perfect in its own right.
I believe that every gardener in North America would love to have hummingbirds swarming around their yard. I also believe that every birder would love to see a hummingbird in every outing, but their speed and dodgy movements can mess with the keenest of eyesight. This is why we need to create perfect environments within our yards to attract these birds into our gardens and keep them there for longer periods of time. Like every living thing on this planet, hummingbirds require certain elements to survive and to thrive. We need to create an environment so ideal with in our yards that they will need for nothing and have little desire to leave. Many think that if they filled a yard full flowers that it would be complete, but this is just the start. Hummingbirds want to feel secure in their surroundings. They want an abundance of food which should include flowers and hummingbird feeders, a water feature for bathing, and trees for perching and staying out of the hot sun. The more things you can get close to perfect, the better chance you'll have of attracting and keeping hummingbirds around your yard. If I could make one point very clear it would be this, "flowers attract hummingbirds, and feeders keep hummingbirds". When young birds move south at the end of summer, they take a bit of coaxing before learning the real purpose and value of the feeder. Once a hummingbird understands a feeder, it will become one of its greatest possessions for the rest of its life. A hummingbird will fly miles to sit and feed on the endless supply of nectar from a feeder. Most flowers expire after a certain length of time, but if we keep hummingbird feeders constantly clean and filled, then a hummingbird will see a feeder as an immortal flower. What other flower or cluster of flowers keeps producing nectar from April through September?
Structure is important for hummingbirds in the yard. Trees are perfect protection from predators. They can shelter from the blazing summer sun, and they provide a resting place to sit and watch over territory while waiting for their next meal.
Water features are always a great element in a garden. Every bird requires water to drink and enjoys a cool bath amidst the hot summer sun. The last three years that I've had a water feature in my garden, it has attracted an enormous amount of birds, including hummingbirds. Water is an absolute necessity to keeping birds nearby. We're in an area that has little water within a 1/2 mile radius, and we frequently see birds flying from every direction to over our garden, before quickly descending down to our birdbath, water fountain or manmade garden pond. Water is a lifeline to every living thing on this planet.
Finally, you can not do without flowers in your garden. Like I mentioned earlier, when young birds are heading south in late summer they are drawn to colorful flowers. These are the natural food source that they rely on. It often takes hours, days or even weeks before a hummingbird figures out what a feeder is. They will rely on the natural flowers for 100% of their nectar intake until they figure out the purpose of a feeder. A good selection of annuals and perennials are needed to not only attract, but to keep hummingbirds returning time and again. And I will tell you this, there is a monstrous difference between o.k. flowers, good flowers and great flowers when it comes to hummingbirds. You can visit the flowers page of www.therubythroat.com for a few of the flowers and their importance or you can get yourself a copy of Jewel of the North, the hummingbird guidebook of Canada.
It is difficult to explain all aspects of hummingbird gardening in a simple blog, so if you want to understand in much greater detail about the Ruby-throated hummingbird, then I would suggest you get a copy of Jewel of the North by Michael Wiens. This is a guidebook written in Canada to show people how to attract hummingbirds to their yard. It covers many topics extensively, and explains much of the behavior of these mystical birds. It is available in paperback and E-book.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.