user_mobilelogo

Store Cart

No items in cart

It would be easy to just set out plants with red, tubular flowers. But for their safety, put some thought into a hummingbird garden.

 

To find out the key requirements for a hummingbird garden, we talked to Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Mark Klym, coordinator of the state Hummingbird Roundup and a co-author of "Hummingbirds of Texas"; and Neil Sperry, author of "Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening."

 

Location

Make sure it's safe from cats. Ideally, it would be a 10- to 15-foot open area for flying surrounded by trees and shrubs or brush. Birds need safe perches and shelter for nesting. Plan a garden on paper that can meet those requirements.

 

Trees

Most mature trees are fine. If you're planting a tree with hummingbirds in mind, red buckeye and anacacho orchid are good choices, says DeLong-Amaya.

 

Flowers

Hummingbird favorites are the salvias — autumn sage, scarlet sage, big red sage, mealy blue sage and many others, all three experts agree. Klym says they're always at the top in the roundup survey. The birds are attracted to red flowers but will feed from other colors as well. Klym says the survey shows hamelia, sometimes called hummingbird bush, is not as popular as the salvias.

Also reliable: Turk's cap, lantana (select a native variety rather than invasive L. camara), verbena, flame acanthus (also called hummingbird bush), red columbine, trumpet vine, crossvine and coral honeysuckle. Stay away from Japanese honeysuckle, which is invasive.

 

Feeders

They make a good supplement to the garden, especially at low-blooming times when nectar supplies are low. Klym has six feeders this year and says he can go on vacation knowing that his birds will stay fed.

Put feeders in the open where birds can see predators coming — and away from places where cats could hide.

Fill feeders with boiled sugar water (four parts water to one part sugar). Change the sugar water every four to six days in cool weather, and every two to four days in hot weather if it hasn't all been consumed.

 

Water

Hummingbirds love to fly through misters for bathing. If you're concerned about wasting water with a mister, Klym suggests pointing it at a plant.

Hummingbirds will use a birdbath if the water is moving. A Water Wiggler, found at bird supply stores, will also keep mosquitoes away.

Make sure the water source is out in the open so birds can see predators approaching.

 

Resources

"Hummingbirds of Texas" (Texas A&M Press, $19.95) has a chapter on gardens with an extensive discussion of habitat and plants.

"Texas Wildscapes" (University of Texas Press) is currently out of print, but a new edition will be available in October.

The Hummingbird Roundup Web site run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides a wealth of current information and tells you how to participate in the round-up. Go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us and search for "hummingbird roundup."

 

Texas hummingbirds

The Austin area most often gets black-chinned and buff-bellied hummingbirds. Sightings of ruby-throated, calliope, rufous, Allen's and other hummingbirds are also reported.

The birds will overwinter in Texas, but most arrive in March and depart in October.

Don't give up if you've planted and put up a feeder but don't see birds for a while. DeLong-Amaya and Klym said they'll eventually appear, but it might take longer in an urban area, especially one the birds haven't visited before.

Though hummingbird fans have long thought the same birds return to their yards every year, Klym says studies are showing it isn't common.

Don't try to break up hummingbird fights. They need to keep that instinct honed for survival.

Similarly, Klym says, trying to tame birds or hold them in your hand is a bad idea. They don't need to get comfortable with humans, because some cultures still catch them, dry them and use them for good-luck charms.