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Hummingbird Gardens

hummingbird.jpgFound only in the Americas, the hummingbird family includes 383 species, but only 16 live in North America. Hummingbirds like bright-colored flowers with lots of nectar, often they are red. Hummingbirds must feed 3 to 5 times per hour and may become reliant on your garden for food, but there may be periods when there are no blossoms from which they can get nectar. Even with a garden of plants, it is a good idea to provide hummingbird feeders.

Never fill your feeders with anything but sugar-water mix of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Do not use food coloring of any kind, and never use molasses, honey, sugar substitutes, powdered, brown sugar or nutrient mixtures (these can develop a fungus which can be fatal to hummingbirds). Wash the feeder each time you refill it. Scrub feeders occasionally with a brush, after a soaking in a mild bleach-water mixture (1 part bleach to 9 parts water), which kills any bacteria in the feeder.

Hummingbirds are very territorial and will defend flowers and feeders from other hummers. If possible, space food sources out of sight from one another, or as far apart as possible, up to 30 feet.

While hummingbirds need nectar, insects, such as aphids, represent the majority of their diet. According to recent research, hummingbirds may have very small brains but excellent memory when it involves food. Scientists in Britain and Canada, have studied the Rufous hummingbird that lives in the Canadian Rockies. The Rufous hummingbird can remember the location of specific flowers and the last time they visited them.

In the birds'€™ feeding grounds, scientists kept track of how frequently the hummingbirds visited eight artificial flowers filled with a sucrose solution. Once the flowers were empty the scientists refilled half after 10 minutes and other half after 20 minutes.

Scientists discovered that the birds returned to the flowers according to the refill schedule. The flowers refilled every ten minutes were visited by the hummingbirds sooner than those refilled every 20 minutes. They believe that the hummingbird'€™s brain has become extremely developed because they travel long distances and do no€™t have time and energy to waste looking for food.

Hummingbirds may visit these blooming plants:

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Photos courtesy of New Zealand Delphiniums and Walters Gardens, Inc.

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Photos courtesy of Dowdswell's Delphinium Ltd

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