The right plants can be a strong attraction to the smallest birds.
While some tiny flying creatures may not be desirable in your yard, there is one that most people find delightful. Many people are thrilled to see hummingbirds flit and hover around their gardens.
According to the Kansas Fish and Game Commission, of the 319 known species of hummingbirds, 15 can be found in the United States and only two come to Kansas. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the one most often seen in the eastern part of our state.
These small birds, about a sixth of the size of a House Sparrow, must consume half of their body weight in food each day. During the day they feed about every 10 minutes on insects and nectar. At night, they go into a temporary hibernation and their heart rate drops from 500 to 40 beats per minute in order to prevent starving to death.
Mid-April is the time hummingbirds begin to arrive. Before plants are in bloom, you can attract them to your yard with bright red feeders filled with a simple sugar solution of one part table sugar to four parts of water, boiled. For refills, bottle and refrigerate the solution until needed. Wash the feeder and refill every two to three days; daily if the temperatures are 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Food coloring is not necessary; the bright color of the feeder will get their attention. You still have time to attract some of the late arrivals.
If your landscape contains bright plants that will attract and adequately nourish hummingbirds, you'll be able to maintain their presence. Plan for blooms that begin in spring and last through October, the time of their migration. Feeders will help supplement their diet if the available insect and nectar supply isn't enough.
Remember, hummingbirds are attracted to bright reds and oranges and not to fragrance, as are wasps and bees. In our area some of the annual plants to consider for a hummingbird-friendly garden are: Four o'clocks, fuchsia, geranium, impatiens, morning glory, nasturtium, nicotiana, petunia and salvia. Perennials also help attract and feed hummingbirds. Some of the perennials are: Columbine, butterfly weed, foxglove, coral bells, Kansas gayfeather, bee balm, penstemon and phlox. Azalea, trumpet vine, flowering quince, honeysuckle and rhododendron are a few of the shrubs and vines you might grow for this purpose.
Plant what hummingbirds like and wait for them to come.
-- The Garden Calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County office and written this week by Master Gardener Pat Lechtenberg. For more information call the Master Gardener Hotline, 843-7058, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.