Extensive urban growth over the last few decades has had a significant impact on habitat that birds and other wildlife once called home. You, as a homeowner, have a unique opportunity to curtail this loss of habitat by creating your own backyard wildlife sanctuary.

NatureScaping of Southwest Washington is a non-profit, all volunteer, educational organization whose goal is to educate and encourage homeowners to make their yards and gardens a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife.

Membership above the $20 level will support maintaining the gardens fencing, irrigation, educational materials and more.

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Hummingbird Place

View of arbor

Hummingbirds are a delight to watch and this garden is the place for that. Filled with plants specifically chosen for the hummingbirds, this garden attracts both the rufous hummingbirds and the year round Anna's hummingbirds that we have here in Clark County.

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Wander the paths here and find nectar producing plants such as Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica,) Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii,) Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa,) and Hollyhock (Althaea rosea.) You'll also discover lots of places for the hummers to hide and nest in, and plants that attract insects for the hummingbirds to eat. Many of the plants in this garden are native to the Pacific Northwest.

 

Attracting Hummingbirds

Creating A Hummingbird Garden

by Jeff Wittler

Creating a Hummingbird garden is easier than you might think. Fact is most homeowners may already have a decent start. First and foremost, the aspiring Hummingbird gardener needs to keep in mind the essential canons of wildlife gardening; that is, all birds, including Hummingbirds, have the basic needs of food, water, shelter and space. A well planned Hummingbird Garden will fulfill these needs and in turn provide the gardener with many hours of enjoyment and entertainment, as well as an invaluable tool in connecting us to our natural world.

With some basic planning, patience and a little luck - your yard can be transformed into a Mecca for Hummingbirds. As with any type of landscaping you need to take a good look at what already exists. If you already have hummers - what plants are they visiting! Whether you're starting fresh or just working on a corner of the backyard - begin with a sketch of existing elements - house, driveway, lawn and the plants you want to keep. Be sure to keep in mind what your needs are too! Do you have children! - Where do you want them to play! Once you've finished your inventory and base map - make copies, use the copies for your renderings, leaving the original unmarked. This lets you go through a progression of changes without having to redraw your base map. Whether landscaping your whole yard or just planters around your deck, this process will help save you time and frustration.

Layering

A key component to any Hummingbird Garden is layering. A well layered garden is not only visually pleasing to us but more attractive to Hummers. Plant layering, using shorter plants in the foreground with the progressively taller and larger plants towards the back or middle will provide for better viewing. This not only gives you an unobstructed view of the garden but also of the Hummers themselves. Layering also allows the garden to be more accessible to the hummers. Hummers, acrobats of the avian world, still need room to maneuver. If foliage interferes too much with their wings and maneuvering; the amount of energy expended for the nectar acquired may not be reward enough to visit those plants. And finally, a well layered concentrated display of color is much more difficult for foraging Hummers to overlook or pass up!

Flowers

It's true - hummers are most readily drawn to and will investigate anything red or orange. But don't let your gardening pallet be restricted to just these colors. Hummers will also frequent flowers of purple, blue, yellow and even white, especially when used in combination with ones of red and orange. There are a great number of non-red flowers Hummers will exploit.

Blooming times

Most realize that perennials and annuals are the most important nectar source for Hummers. But what many forget when installing a Hummingbird garden is making sure an adequate supply of blooming flowers are available throughout the growing season. It's important to have flowers blooming from early spring to late fall. Hummers prefer small compact flower rich territories. If they can find a steady stream of nectar producing flowers throughout the growing season they're much more likely to call your home - their home! That's especially true of nesting female Hummers. Noted Hummingbird researcher, Crawford Greenwalt, found that areas with a diverse, concentrated and pesticide free array of nectar producing plants (not surprisingly) had a higher than normal incidence of nesting Hummers.

Don't forget Trees & Shrubs

As mentioned above, perennials and annuals, are the most important nectar source. Trees and shrubs are also important but not just for nectar. They provide important shelter for roosting and protection from inclement weather and also provide critical nesting habitat. Many have planted spectacular perennial gardens and wonder why they rarely see female hummingbirds and their nests (one reason is that they're incredibly hard to find) - the main answer is lack of appropriate nesting areas. Although Hummers have been known to nest near such public places as the top of outdoor lighting and even hanging baskets, nearby thickets of tree and shrubs are much more desirable to most would be nesters. These trees can provide more than just shelter - close to a hundred trees and shrubs are hardy in the Pacific Northwest that provide usable amounts nectar. See section on Hummingbird plants for a sampling of these species.

Other needs

Perching places are another critical need. Up to 90% of a Hummers time is spent perching either resting or preening. Meeting this need is important if Hummers are expected to stay in your yard. Strategically positioned trees and shrubs within 20 to 40 feet of their nectar source will do nicely. To increase Hummer numbers don't plant all your flowers in one location of the yard. If possible have hummingbird areas in both the front and back yards making it more difficult for a sole pugnacious Hummer to monopolize your whole yard.

Avoid pesticides (and herbicides) as much as possible! Pesticides are detrimental to hummers for a number of reasons. First, pesticides eliminate a major food source - insects (see Hummer-insect Connection article ). Without an adequate source of insects, females will not be able to meet the needs of their offspring and will not likely to nest in your yard. Worse yet, they may set up housekeeping in your yard while there is still an adequate supply of insects. As the season progresses, you spray and suddenly their critical food source disappears, possibly resulting in a failed nest. Second, Hummers are very sensitive, highly tuned machines. Ingestion of foreign substances (especially chemicals) through tainted nectar or direct contact can have a pronounced effect on their own health and that of their offspring.

Whenever possible use native plants when developing your Hummingbird oasis. As with all wildlife, hummers have evolved with plants indigenous to their ranges. Not only are Hummers well-acquainted with them, natives are also acclimated to our weather patterns - making for a healthier plant thereby reducing the need for pesticides and herbicides.

Human fascination with Hummers is undeniable. Whether its their beauty, flying abilities, fearless nature, pugnacity or a combination of all the above - we are Hummer junkies. By creating a Hummingbird Haven you'll ensure never having to suffer withdrawal symptoms.

Hummingbird Feeder Maintenance

Feeders should be cleaned every three or four days with dish soap and hot water to remove mold. For very tough mold use a little sand and shake vigorously. It helps to keep feeders in a shaded but easily found location like under a tree - this helps to prevent mold growth. Feeders can be put up the end of February just in time for the first Rufous Hummingbird arrivals. Also, consider leaving your feeder up during winter, you may be rewarded with a visit from an Anna's Hummingbird - a year round resident in our area. It's a myth that Hummers won't migrate if feeders are left up too late in the year. Other influences such as temperature and sun positioning are the determining factors for onset of migration. Hummingbird solution should be 4 parts water I part sugar. Do not use honey, nutrasweet or red dye and any other chemical additive.

References

• NatureScaping - A Place for Wildlife 1992
OR Dept of Fish &Wildlife
• Hummingbirds & How to Attract Them
WA Dept of Wildlife
• The Hummingbird Book
Donald & Lillian Stoke
• The Way of the Hummingbird
Virginia Holmgren
• Hummingbirds - Jewels in Flight
Connie Toops
• Western Garden Book
Sunset -1995 Edition
• Western Birds - Field Guide
Roger Tory Peterson
• Hummingbirds & Butterflies
Ortho Books

Hummingbird Links

Hummingbirds and How to Attract Them by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Backyard Sanctuary Program

The Hummingbird Society