Each year I hunt up the special Hummingbird feeders, and make nectar and hope they come back in the Spring. The nectar doesn’t need to be red.  In fact the dye isn’t good for them. Only the feeder needs to have red, their favorite color. To make the nectar, bring 4 parts of water to a boil, take it off the heat, and then add one part white sugar and stir. You don’t want the mixture to get thick so make sure you add the sugar after you have removed the water from the heat. After it cools, fill your feeder. Keep any leftover portions refrigerated until needed.

          Ants like sugar so some feeders are made with ant guards.  In the summer time when it gets hot, change the nectar every day or at least every other day or a fungous is likely to grow. If you happen to get a number of Hummers, you will need more feeders a distance away because the males become very territorial and chase visitors away.

          Some don ’ts about feeders:

·        Don’t hang the feeder down low enough for a cat to jump up.

·        Don’t use insecticides when the Hummers are in your area as they are tiny and some are very sensitive. Let the Hummers eat the insects!!!

·        Don’t add sugar to a half full feeder. Dump it out and wash the feeder as the fungi are waiting!!! Then refill with new nectar.

·        Don’t put your feeder in a bush or hidden place where their enemies can hide. Have a clear space and a place to escape to that is close by.

          The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the only Hummer that comes to Nebraska but it doesn’t stay for a long time. We are in their flight path so they stop to fill up going both ways. According to Soni Cochran , UNL Extension Associate in Lancaster County , The ruby-throat hummingbird migration in Nebraska peaks about May 5–17 and Sept. 2–18, but northward migration may occur from April to June and southward flights from August. (From the UNL Extension in Lancaster County , NEBLINE, May 2008, Page 3)

          When you plant your bird garden try to have numbers of the same plant close together rather than scattered in rows. In front of my window on the South I had a fairly good sized patch of Lantana so that I could see the little guys dashing from one bloom to another. First glance seems like a large bee is out there until I look close.  Most of the time I notice the Hummers prefer flowers to feeders so I try to have a variety of flowers.  Red is their favorite but they do visit others. They need flowers with trumpets or bells like Honeysuckle vines.  They “fly” in place as they drink with that long beak.  Double flowers like roses are not good Hummer flowers as they cannot get to the nectar.

          I have clumps of different colors of Bee Balm they visit but it does not bloom for a long time.  If you take a flashlight out at night you can find bees, especially Bumble Bees, asleep on the blooms.  Monarda (Bee Balm ) are perennials that spread by root runners to become a large colony but the center gets so crowded with roots that each Spring I either move part of the plant or save the edge and dig out the center.

          Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.), often listed with the herbs, is another good one as the flowers keep blooming as long as the Hummers are here. Most Coral Bells like afternoon shade to keep the foliage from scorching. Since they seldom get over 18 inches they are a good path edging plant. A number of years ago I got a Palace Purple that is still doing fine. By now the plant breeders have developed many colors and gorgeous leaf patterns. They like good drainage so in my clay soil in Lincoln I mix in about 1/3rd sand and 1/3rd compost to prevent root rot. I also like a slow release 10-10-10 fertilizer once in early spring. If they get scraggly looking they can be cut back close to the ground to rejuvenate. Do not cut the crown in the center of the plant.  Some years rabbits will eat the new plants so watch closely. Some of my Coral Bells are in a fenced area with Lenten Roses and Lilies. The fence helps to fend off rabbits from all of these.

          I see Hummers in the Honeysuckle flowers and the taller Salvia.  Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) is a prime plant for Hummers as the blooms may be larger than the birds.  Sadly, I had to cut my vine down and now there are baby ones coming up on all sides at least ten feet away so I am planning on an invasion.  Trumpets get large stems and climb far.  We have seen them up in trees, and up and over trellis or arbors.  The most common color is bright orange.  They do get very heavy and can bring a weak trellis to the ground. 

          One person called to say her Vine never bloomed but formed funny little branches all over that she cut off.  These funny branches were her young trumpet flowers that may have 6 to 12 buds in panicles at the end of the stems. Sometimes you will hear the plant called “Trumpet Creeper”. They do bloom for a long time in late summer to fall, about the time Hummers are coming back through going South for the winter. Hummers do not nest in Lincoln .

          Hummers also visit Butterfly Bushes, Lobelias, Hibiscus, Morning Glories, Petunias, Climbing Scarlet Runner Beans, and Lantanas. The latter is their favorite in my yard.  Once they find your yard, I think they will return the next year.

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