Hummingbird Gardens: Turning Your Yard Into Hummingbird Heaven

Hummingbirds enliven your garden with their glittering colors and bold, inquisitive personalities as they dash from one tempting bloom to the next. This book shows you how to attract hummingbirds to your yard by planting the flowers they love. You can add vibrant color to your small piece of the planet and at the same time ensure a brighter future for North America's tiniest birds.

  • Introduction: Glittering Garments of the Rainbow, by Stephen W. Kress
  • Hummingbird Biology for Gardeners: Lifestyles of the Nectar Sippers, by Stephen W. Kress
  • Hummingbirds of North America, by Lynn Hassler Kaufman
  • Hummingbird Moths: Marvelous Masqueraders, by Stephen W. Kress
  • Designing A Hummingbird Garden: 15 Ways to Keep Them Coming, by Stephen W. Kress
  • Hummingbird Feeders, by Stephen W. Kress
  • Encyclopedia of Hummingbird Plants
    • For the Northeast and Midwest, by Stephen W. Kress
    • For the Southeast, by Jesse Grantham
    • For the Western Mountains and Deserts, by Lynn Hassler Kaufman
    • For the Pacific Coast, by Beth Huning

Introduction: "Glittering Garments Of The Rainbow"

by Stephen W. Kress

Nearly everything about hummingbirds is superlative. The common names of many hummers—Ruby-throated, Amethyst-throated, Garnet-throated, Berylline, Crimson-Topaz, and Emerald-chinned—bring to mind their exquisite, gem-like qualities. These tiniest of all vertebrates also have (relative to body size) the largest flight muscles, the biggest brain, the fastest wingbeat, the most rapid heartbeat, the highest body temperature, the greatest appetite, and the most unslakable thirst. Their stamina is so great that they can migrate thousands of miles each year—including hundreds of miles nonstop over water.

Their incessant travels often take hummingbirds to backyard gardens, where they and their insect counterparts, butterflies, congregate. As entrancing as butterflies, hummers dash from one tempting bloom to the next with remarkable energy and agility. It's little wonder that many gardeners are adding hummingbird-attracting blossoms to existing gardens or creating special plantings to lure these feisty visitors. Hummingbirds occasionally visit most gardens, but they only stay when they find special flowers that provide ample food. This handbook explains how you can entice hummingbirds to visit your garden and get them to linger there, enlivening the floral displays with their glittering colors and bold, inquisitive personalities.

The Rufous Hummingbird migrates from its winter home in Mexico as far north as Alaska

The Rufous Hummingbird migrates from its winter home in Mexico as far north as Alaska (Illustration: Steve Buchanan)

If you have already enhanced your yard with special plantings for butterflies, you will note in the pages that follow that gardening for hummingbirds is in many ways similar to gardening for butterflies. For example, both hummingbirds and butterflies share similar tastes in some flowers, such as butterfly weed and gayfeathers. However, one notable difference is that hummingbird flowers are typically red, tube-shaped, and without scent, while butterfly flowers are more varied in color and always heavily perfumed.

Throughout their long migrations, hummingbirds are vulnerable to weather, disease, and predators. Like other migrants, hummingbirds are also vulnerable to habitat loss, pesticides, and collisions with windows, tall buildings, towers, and power lines. There isn't much that gardeners can do to increase the chances of survival of many species of birds, such as those who live deep in forest interiors. By contrast, hummingbirds do profit from backyard plantings where they find meals of nectar and insects, as well as the sugar-water in feeders that sprout from an increasing number of porches and kitchen windows each spring.

Too often, human activities worsen the plight of birds and other wildlife by polluting or destroying their habitats, or through the planting of invasive species that overrun the native vegetation with which wildlife has coevolved. By planting the native wildflowers upon which North American hummingbirds have depended for thousands of years, you will not only bring vibrant color to your garden, but you will also insure a brighter future for the birds that John James Audubon called "glittering garments of the rainbow."

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