Sean Conway

Gardening for the Hummingbirds - How to Attract Hummingbirds into Your Yard
Tubular shaped flowers hold more nectar, and thus are more likely to attract hummingbirds

If you're interested in attracting different species of birds to your yard, be ready to offer a buffet of enticing foods and shelters.

One size (and a bag of birdseed) definitely does not fit all.

No one understands that principle better than the curators at Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary in Charlotte, N.C.

Wing Haven was built in 1927 by Eddie and Elizabeth Clarkson specifically as a preserve for birds and wildlife. The home was designed to provide as many vantage points of the gardens as possible.

The gardens, on the other hand, were designed to entice as many birds as possible to take up residence.

Plantings were chosen to provide shelter as well as food and nesting sites. By selecting a mix of plants that would produce flowers, fruits or seeds at different times throughout the year, the Clarksons were able to ensure there would always be reasons for the birds to stay.

Elizabeth kept detailed journals of the birds that visited and what they liked to eat. Building on these observations, she hung bird feeders throughout her garden as a "free lunch" for her feathered guests.

Today, millions of Americans hang feeders in their back yards to attract birds, yet many don't realize how easy it is to attract one of the most fascinating members of the avian world to their property: the hummingbird.

Hummingbirds don't dine on seeds, but rather on flower nectar and tiny insects. So it takes a special type of feeder to attract them.

A simple feeder that dispenses a mixture of sugar and water (one part white cane sugar to four parts water) will mimic the sucrose-rich nectar they seek and will help make them frequent visitors to your yard or garden.

Hummingbirds are wonders of nature.

Their wings can beat up to 80 times per second, and they have special joints that allow them to rotate their wings in a figure-eight pattern. This unique flexibility allows them to hover in place, fly forward, backward, up and down. No other bird can accomplish these helicopter-like maneuvers.

Yet because of their small size and amazing speed, many of us never have the opportunity to observe a hummingbird up close, or realize that they can be found in backyards throughout much of the United States. Western and Southwestern states are home to several species, while only one species, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, is found east of the Mississippi.

A variety of hummingbird feeders are available on the market, but it's also easy to make one using objects found in the home. With a baby food jar, some wire and some red spray paint, you can make your own feeder in a matter of minutes. This week on "Cultivating Life," Rachael Holbert from our local bird sanctuary stops by to show me how simple it is to make the perfect feeder for attracting these fascinating birds.

If you're too busy to be monitoring and filling bird feeders, you might opt instead for planting some shrubs in your yard that will provide an abundance of the high-calorie nectar hummingbirds need to fuel their racecar-like metabolisms.

Another guest on the show, Tim Woods from Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan, is a shrub expert.

Tim explains that tubular shaped flowers hold more nectar, and thus are more likely to attract hummingbirds. Shrubs such as Abelia grandiflora, Weigela, Buddleia, and Althea or Rose of Sharon are on most hummingbirds' list of favorite places to dine. In warmer climates, lantanas and shrubby salvias are perfect for attracting hungry hummers.

This summer, resolve to spend more time in your own back yard.

With a few simple feeders, some new shrubs and a keen interest in your feathered neighbors, perhaps you can take a page from Elizabeth and Eddie Clarkson's book and start a Wing Haven of your own.


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Gardening for the Hummingbirds - How to Attract Hummingbirds into Your Yard

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