Plants for hummingbirds

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Last Updated: 
February 19, 2003

CORVALLIS - By planting certain flowers and shrubs, home gardeners can provide food and habitat for hummingbirds.

In Oregon, the most commonly seen hummingbird species are the rufous hummingbird and Anna's hummingbird, said Dan Edge, wildlife biologist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Rufous hummingbirds, found in all but the southeast corner of the state, migrate south for the winter, returning north to most regions of the state in late February and March. Anna's are year-round residents in Oregon's Coast Range. There are also small summer populations of three other species of hummingbirds that barely make it into Oregon - the black-chinned, Allen's and calliope hummingbirds.

Given the right plants, hummingbirds will frequent your yard, zooming around, beating their wings at 70 to 80 times or more per second. Hummingbirds need to eat about half their body weight daily in nectar and insects. Plant nectar provides instant energy and insect prey provides protein for muscle growth. As these tiny birds feed on nectar plants they also pollinate the blossoms.

Hummingbirds love nectar-rich flowering plants with bright red, orange or red-orange tubular-shaped blossoms. By planting a succession of nectar flowers, shrubs and trees that will bloom from spring to fall, you can give hummingbirds a continual source of food through the seasons.

Spring and early summer blooming flowers good for hummingbirds include: bleeding heart, columbine, fuschia, lupine, petunias, phlox and sweet William. Later in the summer into fall, hummingbirds feed on bee balm, butterfly bush (Buddleia), dahlia, hollyhock, four-o-clock, zinnia, cardinal flower, beard tongue (penstemon), scarlet gilia and sage (salvia), to name a few.

Flowering shrubs hummingbirds feed on include azaleas, wild Indian plum, red elderberry, red flowering current and flowering quince. Hummingbirds also feed on the nectar of hawthorne, horse chestnut and flowering crabapple trees. Vines they prefer include twin berry, morning glory, clematis, trumpet creeper, honeysuckle and scarlet runner bean.

Mail order seed companies that sell many of the seeds for hummingbird flowers include: Nichol's Garden Nursery, 1190 North Pacific Hwy., Albany, OR 97321-4598; and Territorial Seed Company, P.O. Box 157, Cottage Grove, OR 97424.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Dan Edge