I've had many people ask me whether flowers are necessary for hummingbirds, or should they use strictly feeders? If I was restricted to only one of the two, it would be feeders. Fortunately, we've got the freedom to put out as many flowers and feeders as we like. In saying this, I would never limit myself to one or the other. They both have incredible value.
The reason feeders are of such great value is that the adult birds recognize them as a sure source of unlimited nectar. They aren't limited to one season or a limited amount of time like perennials are. Whether good weather or bad, early in the season or late, feeders provide a guaranteed source of food throughout the year. Hummingbirds always know that whatever their circumstance, they can always return to that exact same location knowing that it won't run out. Of course, this means we have to be very responsible in changing the nectar regularly with a proper cleaning.
Flowers are important because they also provide a valuable source of food. They rely on flowers in regions where feeders aren't available, and without them hummingbirds may have to fly very long distances before they can find another feeder. Hummingbirds will never do without flowers. Even while they prefer to sit on that never ending source of nectar in a feeder, it's built within their DNA to desire the sweet nectar within flowers. As a matter of fact, when the young birds first leave the nest, flowers become their top priority. They bypass feeders because they don't look like the natural sources of food created. This is where flowers are of such great importance to any hummingbirder. We have to attract and keep them around our yard until they solve the feeders.
This young hummingbird was eager to sample every flower available to it. It stuffed its head deep within the Nasturtium flower while the ant waited its turn.
The other reason I love flowers in the yard is because they are what give us the greatest photo opportunities possible. Feeders can provide many photos, but to capture them feeding in the flowers just simply makes you one with nature.
Juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird. August, 2016.
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