Many folks, including my household, are fascinated by hummingbirds, so you probably hang out a feeder or two in the summer to provide them with sugar water. But did you know that hummingbirds also are attracted to many flowering landscape plants, particularly those that have brightly colored red and scarlet flowers?


Many folks, including my household, are fascinated by hummingbirds, so you probably hang out a feeder or two in the summer to provide them with sugar water. But did you know that hummingbirds also are attracted to many flowering landscape plants, particularly those that have brightly colored red and scarlet flowers?

Hummingbirds or hummers, as they’re often called, have been sighted in 49 states (all except Hawaii) and 10 Canadian provinces. However, of the dozens of species, only four species are found in Oklahoma, with the ruby-throat the most often seen.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico and Central America, returning to Oklahoma in mid to late April. To attract them to your yard or garden, you’ll need to meet their requirements for food, shelter and nesting spots.

A hummingbird consumes about half its weight in sugar each day, feeding five to eight times per hour (up to a minute per feeding). In addition to sipping nectar from tubular flowers and feeders, this tiny, metallic green bird also feeds on insects, tree sap and juice from some fruits.

Hummers tend to follow a regular route in search of food though are highly inquisitive and attracted to the color red and, to a lesser degree, pink, rose, orange, and purple. In planning a hummingbird garden, you’ll want to select plants with flowers of those colors, using a variety of annuals and perennials to provide continuous bloom.

When selecting flower varieties, keep in mind that hummers are not attracted to fragrance, but rather color and nectar production. Although some cultivated hybrids produce much less nectar than their wild cousins do, many are still good choices for a hummingbird garden.

For early summer bloom, plant iris, columbine, rhododendron, and evening primrose. Morning glory, fuchsia, geranium, roses, nasturtium, clematis, gladiolus, scarlet runner bean, zinnia, verbena, snapdragon, and hollyhocks bloom mid-summer with bee balm and phlox coming into flower in August.

Check with your local garden center or nursery for other suggestions, as well as for recommendations for disease-resistant varieties as it’s critical that you don’t use pesticides on or near the hummers’ food sources. Not only can sipping nectar from plants that have been sprayed sicken or kill the birds, but it also kills the insects hummers need for protein.

Females often build their nests on a downward-sloping, lichen-covered limb near or over water though may build in any deciduous or coniferous tree that provides adequate protection from predators such as hawks and other birds. The nests are only an inch or so long and are made of plant down, bud scales, and lichens, held together with saliva or spider silk. Newborns are about the size of a pea but grow rapidly and will start feeding on nectar in about a month.

Hummers spend nearly 80 percent of their time resting, so you also will want to provide plenty of places to perch. They’ll sit on twigs, leaf stems, fences, and even clotheslines in between searching for food. They love to bathe and may be attracted to a splashing fountain or even droplets of water on leaves of broad-leafed trees.

Finally, if you want to attract these little birds to your yard or garden, wear red! Although there’s no scientific data to support this, it seems that hummingbirds will check out anything red, even you!

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran and is an equal opportunity employer.

If you have questions concerning this topic or related topics, call the OSU Extension Center at 273-7683, stop by the office, or visit our Web site: http://www.oces.okstate.edu/pottawatomie.