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  Ruby Throated Hummingbird  
  Ruby Throated Hummingbird  

 

Hummingbirds are regular visitors to Toronto and some spend their whole summers here. These incredible birds, which are only found in the Americas, are extreme in many ways. They are amongst the smallest of birds; their flight control is unmatched; they have the highest metabolisms; and they have a huge calorie requirement for their size. You can help them meet their metabolic demand by providing plants with red or purple flowers to provide sugar as well as an insect garden to provide protein.

They need at least 500 individual flowers (Most pictures show flowerheads that contain many flowers) to provide enough nectar. Typically the flowers are tubular without a landing platform. Since hummingbirds use visual cues to guide them towards plants, flowers that are specifically pollinated by these creatures probably will not have much of a scent. The nectar from hummingbird flowers is copious with solutions ranging from 15-50% concentration. These characteristics apply to African plants pollinated by Sunbirds so these plants can also be used in hummingbird gardens. However, non-native plants will not support many insects which hummingbirds also need. Hummingbirds will visit many different plants. However, in a hummingbird garden, you need plants that will bring these creatures back again and again. Below is a range of plants that attract these birds.

Individual birds tend to favour particular plants. If you have the room, then give them a choice and ensure that you have blooms throughout the whole season. However, planting one large patch of a plant will give you more success than planting a range of individual plants of different species because the foraging becomes far more efficient for the hummingbirds. I had success just by planting a large patch of bee balm which blooms for nearly 2 months (see here for a seriously small shortlist).

Hummingbirds like to perch on nearby trees and you can also make your garden more favourable by installing nesting platforms. They use spider silk to line their nests so let these little creatures do their own thing in your garden. They do drink water from bird baths and are apparently fond of misters.

Feeding hummingbirds

Native plants to attract hummingbirds in N.E. North America

Plants for other areas of N. America outside the North East

 

columbine Penstemon Fuschia gartenmeister lonicera
spigelia Zinnia Red Lantana camara Crocosmia
beebalm Lobelia cardinalis Campis radicans phlox
Lobelia cardinalis native
Agastache martagon lily buddleia
Canada Lily native(and similar)
       
 

Hummingbirds feeding at Blue Lobelia
This picture is included to show that hummingbirds can be attracted to colours other than red. Blue Lobelia may not draw these amazing birds into the garden, but once they get there they will certainly sip from this plant.
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