August has been a busy month for the hummingbird feeders and flowers in my yard. Hummingbirds are on the move. Buzzing by, taking a quick energy drink of nectar wherever they can find it, grabbing and eating insects in mid-air and picking from spiderwebs, the little birds are putting on body fat now to be able to fly the hundreds of miles to Mexico and Central America where they will spend the winter.
August through October is the time for fall hummingbird migration, and so it is good to continue to use the sugar water feeders and watch for hummingbirds as they make frequent stops on their long journey back to the tropics for winter. You can’t make them behave; you will have dueling hummingbirds competing for food and territory as they move through. Watch this video to see the fighting that goes on in my yard.
Even though there are more than 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, only fifteen species are common in North America. I live in Alabama, so I am most likely to see the ruby-throated hummingbird since its summer breeding and migration range covers the eastern half of the continent. In the spring, ruby-throated hummingbirds fly the non-stop 500 miles across the gulf or travel over land up through the eastern states and up through woodlands of the Appalachian Mountains, through the midwestern prairies to the Canadian woodlands and prairies to spend the summer in their breeding grounds. The spring migration prompts us to put our feeders out, to help the birds by providing an easy-to-find food source. People have enjoyed this relationship with hummingbirds for many years, and hummingbirds benefit from the feeders as the timing of spring flowers is not always so predictable.
Make Your Yard Hummingbird Friendly
Making your yard a hummingbird-friendly habitat is easy. Plant bright-colored and tubular-shaped flowering plants, put out sugar water feeders throughout the garden, and don’t be so quick to prune small low-hanging limbs so that breeding females may build nests. Click here to watch a female ruby throat build a nest out of spider silk and lichen in my yard. Build habitat and observe. You can go a few steps further and collect data and report your findings to online citizen science projects like National Audubon: Hummingbirds at Home, Journey North: Hummingbird, or Operation Ruby Throat: The Hummingbird Project.
As hummingbirds move through during the next month or so, chances are, you can catch a hummingbird festival in your area. To celebrate the hummingbird migration and to learn more about these pretty little birds, I am going with friends to the Strawberry Plains Hummingbird Festival at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, Mississippi. I can’t wait to hang out with friends, buy art and native plants for my garden, listen to speakers on a variety of topics (not just about hummingbirds), and of course, to see hummingbirds up close and personal. I am looking forward to seeing Doug Tallamy, entomologist and author of Bringing Nature Home, and The Living Landscape (co-authored by Rick Darke).
I’m also looking forward to seeing Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into Their Lives authors, Paulette Haywood Ogard and Sara Bright, as well as interpretive gardens specialist, Kristin Lamberson. They will all talk about how important it is to use your own yard as a nature preserve. “Plant it and they will come,” I know they will say. If we all plant a good variety of native plants in our yard, provide supplemental food sources as well, then wildlife will be attracted to the productive and constant food sources, and our own lives will be enriched as we support wildlife.
Here are a few of my favorite native plants for attracting hummingbirds:
Spring: scarlet buckeye, columbine, crossvine, bee balm, wild bergamot, standing cypress, phlox, penstemon
Summer: coral honeysuckle, red salvia, trumpet creeper, jewelweed, scarlet rose mallow, threadleaf hyssop, coral bean
Summer/Fall: salvia, cardinal flower, turk’s cap
And you can see more in this photo gallery from HGTV Gardens.
Are you watching the great hummingbird migration in your neck of the woods? Tell us your stories in the comments below!