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Weekly Express-News Article
Sugar water feeders will attract hummingbirds to most patios. Mix four parts water and one part sugar by volume to attract the interesting little birds. Increase the number of birds that visit by also including a few nectar producing container plants.
There is a huge selection of hummingbird feeders. Some are very decorative and many are just
functional. Whichever feeder you select,
make sure it is easy to clean.
Especially in the summertime, the feeder needs to be rinsed out every
week and brushed clean every month.
Hummingbird feeders are available at many retailers including retail
nurseries, wild bird supply stores, pet supply stores, hardware stores and even
supermarkets. For those of you who like
to support local manufactures, Best A-1 Feeders are manufactured in
To reduce the time involved in mixing the sugar water, mix it a gallon at a time and store it in the refrigerator. Place the sugar and water in the microwave to accomplish the sugar dissolving with minimal stirring. Red food coloring has traditionally been used to color the sugar water. There is no research that establishes any danger to the birds, but it does not appear to be necessary to attract the birds.
Hang the feeder on a trellis or the eaves in a spot where it is easily viewed from the kitchen or a picnic table. There are even some hummingbird feeders that can be attached to a window.
Fire ants and bees are often pests that feed on the sugar
water. Thwart the ants by moving the
feeder around. Ant guards that rely on
water in a thimble-size container on the hanging line are not practical because
the water evaporates dry in about two hours in a typical
Golden-fronted woodpeckers and house finches will also feed on sugar water. They are just an added divedend.
To increase the number of hummingbirds that visit your patio or balcony, include some potted plants that provide nectar for hummingbirds. My favorites include pentas, firebush, spreading lantana, and zinnias.
Pentas are available in red, pink, lavender or white. All will attract hummingbirds, but pink or red seem to be the most popular. The best thing about pentas is that they are shade-tolerant. Place one in a three gallon to five gallon container in sun or shade and you will have blooms every day until cold weather arrives.
Pentas are not xeriscape plants so keep them well watered. The only pest I have encountered is hornworms. The same caterpillars that eat tomatoes seem attracted to pentas. Control hornworms with Spinosad or a Bt product.
Lantana montevidensis (spreading lantana) does not have as much shade-tolerance as pentas, but they do relatively well in partial shade and very well in full sun. Both the lavender and white versions will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The low growing nature and drought-tolerance of spreading lantana makes it a good choice for hanging baskets.
Firebush has small tubular flowers on a rounded bush with red-green foliage. Keep it in a small container (three – five gallons) and the plant stays about 1.5 feet tall and around. Hummingbirds love firebush. The toughest bird in your yard may surrender the sugar water feeder in favor of the firebush.
Zinnias make great cut flowers and they are also a favorite of the hummingbirds and butterflies. Use one of the many seed grown selections in a container or the Dreamland transplants available at most nurseries. Zinnias last about four months in a San Antonio summer so be prepared to make a second planting later in the summer. Zinnias like hot weather, but they also require generous applications of water.
you enjoy birds as much as you do blooming plants in your garden, you may want
to support the
Last year we spotted 81 species and were able to donate nearly $2,000.00 to the Wildlife Refuge because a large number of my readers and listeners committed $.25 cents per species towards our quest. If you would prefer, pledge a set amount of $20.00 or more. To pledge to support Birdathon, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (210) 382-4455. It is a good cause.