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Feeding Hummingbirds
August 29, 2011

Our prayers continue for the regions and the millions that are affected from the recent hurricane.

I can't even imagine.

A picture of a Michigan Super Cell at sunset this past week.

It went south of here, but put on a nice lightening show, visible for a couple of hours.

Karen's mom is slowly on the mend, but still has bouts of fear.

I know many cities and towns across North America have a type of "Metro Cruise" and our area is no different.

This past weekend, 28th street (M11) was full of old classics, muscle cars, low riders and an assortment of cool cars.

It is nice to take some time off and enjoy the cars and know the time and effort involved to put together a function like this.

Not to mention the folks who travel with their special vehicles, that make it all possible.

Kudos to all.

Do you smell that?

Can you feel it?

Do you see it?

Can you hear it?

You can even taste it.

The changing of the guard that is.

From summer to autumn.

Sure we have more than three full weeks before it is official, but there is a noticeable difference.

The seasonal change effects all of our senses.

Yes, you can even taste it when you bite into the fresh fruits and vegetables.

Even on a hot summer day, the sun feels different.

When you are in tune with your surroundings, you can hear, see and smell the difference.

Things are changing.

Take a moment from your busy day.

Feel how the sun beats lower in the sky.

Shadows grow longer as the daylight hours shrink.

Sounds have changed from singing birds to singing insects.

The air smells a bit different if you are not buried in pollutions.

Take a moment for your self, and take in your surroundings.

Visit a park or Nature Preserve.

Take a moment for yourself, you deserve.

Immerse your self in "All of Creation".

You will thank yourself for it.

As August comes to an end, your gardens don't have to.

Plant a fall crop of lettuce.

Continue to feed your summer squash and tomatoes and cucumbers.

Yes, keep them going as long as possible and a good feeding right now may just be what the plant doctor ordered.

Feed your blooming annuals to keep them looking good.

You may even want to feed some of your perennials like Gaillardia with a low nitrogen, high potassium and phosphors plant food.

Especially if you live in Zones 3, 4, and 5

Long bloom seasons can be rough on your plants and stronger roots help them to survive the winter.

If you throw on a fall/winter lawn fertilizer, wait till October for that task.

Pick some cut flowers for your table.

Embrace the changing of the guard.

Get the most out of the coming weeks.

Every so often I dedicate a sit around and do nothing day so I can simply enjoy my surroundings.

A body has too from time to time.

Like you, I enjoy hummingbirds.

Yet, I purposely didn't write about them much this year.

For one thing, there were too many other topics to write about.

Even insects (I do hope you came away with a different perspective).

No matter, I do encourage you to read as much as you can about hummers and all of our wildlife.

Well, after some serious cogitating (a $5 dollar word for thinking or meditating), I figure this was as good of time as any to put together an article.

Hummers fascinate us with the size and abilities.

However, today's article is more on feeding this wonderful bird as they prepare themselves for the long

journey south.

What is your roll or stewardship on feeders, flowers and more.


Obtaining the food needed to live from day to day is a fundamental part of life.

For all living things.

That holds true for hummingbirds as well

Now, imagine a small hummingbird discovering a large amount of food in one place, such as a feeder.

While a feeder may be an almost endless supply of nectar, hummers
don't see it that way and will often chase away other hummers.

This especially holds true for Ruby-throated hummingbirds.

While a feeder may seem like a huge grocery store, it is still a supplement to flowers.

Because of the high energy level of hummingbirds, they must eat more than their weight in food each day, and they fulfill this need by eating often.

Their survival critically depends on eating more frequently than any other animal, as they continually face the danger of starving.

For example, ..............

You may often see a hummer at your feeder towards dusk or nightfall.

These last feedings are crucial for hummers.

Energy storage keeps a hummingbird from starving, but not for long.

The energy stored by the end of a day usually is just sufficient to survive overnight.

Hummers can and do go into a torpid state on cool nights, however they don't lower their body temperature unless there is a danger they actually may starve.

Even with their abilities to save some energy and to conserve energy in an extreme crisis.

Hummingbirds face big problems because they must eat often.

So why would "Nature" put these beautiful creatures as these in high risk situations?

While hummers were created this way (to pollinate flowers, eat some bugs and for human enjoyment).

It is also part of the "Circle of Life".

Only the strong survive to pass on genes to the next generation.

Loss of habitat plays a big roll as well.


The nectar content of your flowers, will depend on how often your hummers must feed.

Nectar content in flowers varies greatly.

You may have flowers that have a nectar content of 10 or 15 percent.

Hummers will and do feed from them, but are constantly having to feed.

Still other flowers like Monarda may have a nectar content as high as 50 percent.

(Check below for hummer flowers and a few of my favorites.)

Your hummers wont feed as often, but they sure will hang around the Monarda for as long as they are in bloom.

Nectar is nectar, but they need a certain amount (caloric intake) each day to survive and a lot more to bulk up for migration.

It is that simple.

A Simple Concept:

For years I have been sharing in this letter and with others how I will pump my feeders up for spring and fall migration.

Instead of the basic one part sugar and four parts water, I will go with a 1:3 ratio and even closer to a 1:2 ratio at times of migration.

A higher octane allows the birds to recover more quickly from migration north and allows them to bulk up for the strenuous trip south.

I'm not a scientist with fancy lab equipment.

No Ph.D. after my name.

I'm simply a Naturalist with all of nature as my Laboratory.

A little observation and some common sense.

By belief is this....................

If the natural world provides a ratio of 1:3 or even 1:1, why not our feeders for a few weeks.

The portion suggested for the longest time has been a standard of 1:4.

Personally, I think its because this is an easy thing to remember, but isn't at all like the average of most flowers.

Wouldn't you Know It.

Recent research now says it is okay to fluctuate your feeder solutions and for years I have been suggesting this.

One report I read even suggests going 1:1 for migration purposes.

I have never gone that high, but I will increase my 1:3 to a 1:2 soon, and you may want to pump your feeders up as well.

(I have shared this with you for
years, and even mention it on my web pages.)

You may even boost your feeders to help attract hummers to them.

Once they find the rich nectar, they will come back on a regular basis.

Once hooked, you begin to weaken the solution so they come to feed more often.

After all, isn't this the main reason we feed them?

So we can watch them up close.

Now remember, the higher the octane, the quicker it will spoil in hot weather.

Do keep an eye on your feeders and clean and change sugar water every couple of days in the summer heat.

Nectar content doesn't have to be the same every time, what is important is a clean feeder and the birds knowing they can get a quick meal anytime of the day.

As wild creatures, flowers are still the main source of food and our feeders supplement, especially in lean times.

Still, migration is beginning and it is time to pump up your feeders.

One Last Thing.

You may want to read A Hummingbird's Bill.

Hummingbirds do not live on nectar alone.

Indeed, up to one third of their diet consists of protein rich insects.

Yes, hummingbirds eat bugs.

They eat ants and other small insects such as mosquitoes, aphids, gnats, midges, caterpillars, flying ants, weevils, small beetles, white flies and insect eggs.

They also eat small spiders, and
some species feed on tree sap from holes in trees that other birds have made such as yellow bellied sap suckers.

Sapsucker holes are a double treat, providing both insects and sap!

While nectar provides energy, protein is required to run this highly efficient and high energy bird.

They have the fastest wing beats of any bird, around 70 beats per second and up to 200 beats per second during a high speed dive.

A hummingbird's heart beats up to 1,260 beats per minute.

They have the largest heart and breast muscles in proportion.

All of this requires protein to keep muscles healthy and strong.

Insects provide the protein needed.

(Often when a hummer is hovering over a zinnia or sticking its bill in a flower, it is feeding on insects.)

Even baby hummers need protein to grow health and strong.

The mother will feed them with a mixture of nectar and tiny insects and spiders, that she will collect in her crop and regurgitate the mixture into the mouths of the young.

The insects and spiders will provide the protein that the baby hummingbirds need to grow.

Often you may watch a hummingbird collecting tiny insects
from flowers like Zinnias or other flat headed flowers.

Pay Attention to this.

This is all the more reason to keep pesticides from your gardens.

When hummers are busy collecting nectar, snagging insects and even grooming themselves, they are at risk of ingesting deadly toxins.

Eventually these toxins will kill off your hummers and for sure will kill off the babies that are fed this deadly potion.

I can live with a few holes in my plants and enjoy more beneficial insects and my hummingbirds.

Will You?

As a good steward, it is now your responsibility to maintain feeders and offer flowers to help these beauties on the trip south.

With habitat constantly shrinking, we must help even more so we and future generations can continue welcoming hummingbirds to our yards and gardens

The Migration South.

Plan a Hummingbird Garden for next Spring.

Feeders are a supplement, flowers are usually the main attraction.

By the way, I have a few favorite hummingbird flowers.

Native Monarda, Crocosmia (Introduced from Africa and non invasive).

The above plants have a few week bloom period but are magnets for hummers.

Agastache (aka hummingbird mint) is native to the American southwest.

Some like A. cana are hardy to Zone 5 and once they start to bloom in early to mid summer, they bloom well into Autumn.

Black and Blue salvia (Salvia guaranitica), a native to South America and hardy to Zone 7.

Grows up to 5 feet high and across.

Though the flowers are blue, hummers really like this plant which I winter over in Zone 5 with a heavy mulch.

I'll add Butterfly bush to this short list too as my hummers keep busy with the small nectar rich flowers.

Native of Asia, Buddleia davidii is a cross between an perennial flower and a shrub.

A woody plant you prune back every spring to force new and stronger growth.

Can be invasive in milder climates

Hardy to Zone 5.

If I could have but one type of flowering plant in my yard, it would be a nice bed of Red Salvia (Salvia splendens).

Red salvia is a tender perennial from Brazil that is treated as an annual in most gardens, and the hummers always find it.

Blooms from spring to frost and gets better as the seasons progress.

cultivars vary in color and size.

From red, white and purple and can grow from about 8 inches to the giants that grow to 6 feet (2m.).

A nice bed of Red salvia is a can't miss for the hummingbirds.

Now here is a Good list of Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Gardens.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

If we really want to be full and generous in spirit,

we have no choice but to trust at some level.

Rita Dove

There is one trust that will never betray you.

Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Psalms 62:8 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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