Florida Gardening forum: For anyone interested in being a hummingbird host

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Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Sep 15, 2012 11:34 AM CST
I am posting this info here as many Florida gardeners may or may not be aware of hummingbirds in Florida. I would like to encourage gardeners to consider becoming a hummingbird host.

I am posting this information around the internet in hopes of getting more Florida gardeners and birders to host hummingbirds in their yard and report their sightings...

I wanted to post some information about hummingbirds in Florida on this thread:

There have been 11 different species of hummingbird sightings confirmed in Florida: Ruby-throated (being the most common), Rufous, Allen's, Black-chinned, Calliope, Bahama Woodstar, Buff-bellied, Anna's, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and White-eared Hummingbirds.

There are at least two different Ruby-throated hummingbird populations: There are the south-bound hummingbirds migrating into/through the state in the Fall/Winter and the Spring migrating hummingbirds heading north through the state in the Spring. These different populations have been sighted throughout Florida from the east coast to the west coast, from the northern part of the state down to the Keys! There is less data about any of the other hummingbird species sighted in Florida.

There are also some breeding Ruby-throated hummingbird populations during the Spring/Summer months sighted from central Florida up through north Florida. The breeding females and juvenile birds migrate in the Fall/Winter. Sightings info can be reported on the Florida Hummingbird Forum. http://floridahummingbirds.proboards.com/

This forum listed above was created to collect Florida hummingbird sightings data to provide a better awareness of the possibilities in Florida. Much is still unknown. More reports are needed. It would be great to hear from more folks who see hummers from south Florida and the Keys. ALL reports posted on the above website are appreciated and it gives all of us a better understanding of what is going on with the birds sighted here in Florida!

Contrary to some beliefs, there has been no proof to suggest that there are any non-migratory, resident Ruby-throated hummingbirds (RTHs) in Florida. So if you seem to have RTHs year round, it is likely different birds in Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Over-lap of migrating bird sightings are very possible.

Whether or not you see any hummers anytime during the year in Florida depends on if you have food and shelter to offer them and how long it takes for them to find you. I am a firm believer that if you plant it, they will come! Well-kept feeders are another very enticing way to attract them. Having both feeders and nectar plants as well as large trees for shelter are some of the necessities they will be looking for. If you have a good habitat, you may very well host one or more winter hummers that will hang around your area and frequent your yard for a season or two. The summer breeding birds typically don't nest near homes. Ruby-throated hummers often nest in trees near bodies of water (which offers protection from predators). But there may be exceptions.

For those new to hummingbird feeders, this is the recommended ingredients:
Non-colored sugar water which you can make using the ratio of 4 cups of water to 1 cup of white sugar. (Do NOT use honey, powdered sugar, brown sugar, or any other sweetener!) I personally recommend bottled "spring" water which can be purchased by the gallon at most grocery stores. Feeders should be thoroughly cleaned and fresh sugar water changed out every 2-3 days during the hot months and every 3-4 days during the colder months. Most of the sugar water will be wasted as you will probably only get a few birds using it. Here in Florida, lots of hummers swarming a feeder is rare. If your feeders are not properly maintained, the birds will not use them. It is a commitment to maintain clean and healthy feeders, but well worth it once the birds find you! It took me over 2 years to attract them to my yard all the while maintaining feeders every few days.

I am on the east coast of central Florida (city of Sebastian) and keep my feeders up year round. I have hummers all year except for two weeks/a month during the late summer when the Spring/Summer breeding RTHs leave and the Fall/Winter migrating hummers have yet to arrive. I truly believe it is because I have a good habitat in and around my yard and hang feeders that encourage them to stick around. I believe that the undeveloped woodland river areas in my town also contribute to the presence of breeding birds in summer!

The only species I've seen in my yard has been the Ruby-throated hummingbirds. But just this past week, I had the good fortune to witness a confirmed young female Rufous or Allen's hummingbird. There was no way to confirm for sure which bird species it was because the females of both species are very, very similar in appearance. It would probably require the ID to be made by a certified hummingbird bander, unless I was extremely lucky to get a very good close-up of her spread out tail feathers. This bird was likely hatched earlier this year somewhere between Oregon and Alaska, so it's amazing what hummer species we get here in the Sunshine State!

Typically, many of the birds will return to their season sites, so once you start getting them, you'll likely see them the following year unless they don't survive or the habitat changes in your area. (The removal of wooded areas and large trees may have a negative affect on new and returning birds.) Also weather conditions (such as hurricanes) can also affect their return.

If you sincerely want to attract hummingbirds to your yard, persistence and commitment is the key! Provide a good habitat and in time I'm quite sure you will see your first bird! The wait is well worth it!!!! Good luck to all current and future hummingbird hosts!

In posting this info, I hope it encourages and helps all folks in Florida (and other states, too) to consider becoming a host yard for these precious little flying jewels!

And on another note that might be of interest, if you have not seen the PBS full length video, "Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air", it is highly recommended:
http://video.pbs.org/video/1380512531/

It can also be found on YouTube for folks inside as well as outside the USA who can't view the PBS video site:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32_N7XvU78s

I recently photographed an adult male Ruby-throated hummingbird I spotted in my yard on Sept. 8th and a young female Rufous or Allen's hummingbird photo capture taken on Sept 13th.

Thumb of 2012-09-15/beckygardener/e20a0d

Thumb of 2012-09-15/beckygardener/3c9e23
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Sally
Wesley Chapel. FL (Zone 9a)
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Sossman
Sep 20, 2012 5:12 AM CST
When we first moved into our home here in Wesley Chapel, FL, 8 years ago there were no gardens. The very first garden I planted was a hummingbird / butterfly garden. We had butterflies immediately, as we were carrying plants from the car to the back yard! It's taken considerably longer to attract the hummingbirds. It was probably 3 years before they found us, and even then, it was just an occasional sighting. This year, we seem to have two pairs visiting our yard daily. I now have way more garden area than lawn and the hummers travel from garden to garden finding that perfect sweet spot. Although I used to put up feeders, I now don't bother as they never use them. The only ones drinking from the feeders were the wasps, bees and lizards! Smiling
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Sep 23, 2012 9:30 AM CST
Thanks for the informative article! I love hummers and have enjoyed seeing them in our yard the past couple years. They love Lantana, Zinnias, butterfly bush, Cannas, Coleus, Basil. Most of my flowers are chosen with them in mind, although most of the plants I have are for foliage, not flowers.
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Sep 23, 2012 11:33 AM CST
Becky: You should write an article about Gardening for Hummingbird's! Thank you for suppling this great information for anyone who loves Hummingbirds and wants to attract these little jewels to the garden! I saw quite a few female Ruby-throated Hummers earlier this year but haven't spotted a single male. I haven't seen any more since @ the first of August but then I've been busy and not really looking for them either. I put out a few feeders early in the spring but the Hummingbirds totally ignored them since there are a few plants in the garden that they seem really attracted to like the Pentas, Bottlebrush and Clerodendrum. I have a neighbor who doesn't grow plants to attract Hummingbirds and they flock to her feeders ... so, I guess they are getting the benefit of sugar water at her house and plant nectar from my garden. Smiling

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird @ Pentas lanceolata flowers:
Thumb of 2012-09-23/plantladylin/3ceed4 Thumb of 2012-09-23/plantladylin/7c5f3c

Weeping Bottlebrush flowers:
Thumb of 2012-09-23/plantladylin/b6cebf Thumb of 2012-09-23/plantladylin/1acbc4

Clerodendrum paniculatum flowers:
Thumb of 2012-09-23/plantladylin/2b10c4 Thumb of 2012-09-23/plantladylin/68f9ee
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Sep 24, 2012 7:25 PM CST
Beautiful photos, Lin! I can see why they come to your yard! Seems they have the best of both worlds between your yard and your neighbor's feeders!

You should start seeing the winter migrating hummers soon, if not already, so hang feeders if you are so inclined. Feeders are important during the winter once a freeze comes through and kills back any blooming plants. The sugar water will help keep the little birds around your yard should you lose blooming plants. Some birds actually prefer feeders over blooms. That has been the case in my yard.

During migration, the adult males come first followed a week or so later by the females and then the juvenile birds show up last. Often the birds will claim an area and guard their territory during their stay in Florida. You may see some aerial fighting going on over a feeder or plants. I personally hang several feeders around my yard out of view of the other feeder(s) so that they can't see each other. It will stop the fighting among the birds over squatters rights! lol

There have been sightings this month of 2 Rufous hummers (an adult female and a juvenile male) in Castellow Hammock Park in Miami-Dade County. The adult female is believed to be a bird that spent the winter at Castellow Hammock Park last year, so it looks like she is back. And another reported sighting of an adult male Rufous in a Lehigh Acres yard in Lee County.

For those who don't know much about Rufous, they are typically born in the northwestern regions of the USA, but can be found breeding as far south as northern California all the way up to Alaska. Those that overwinter here have traveled quite a long distance, so they are a bit of a rare sight in Florida. For more fascinating facts about them, check out this link: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rufous_hummingbird/lifehi...

Hummingbirds don't flock together or form mating pairs. They are solitary birds. Often they return to their same overwintering spots and breeding grounds year after year (provided they survive each year). In Florida, we only get a small percentage of winter hummingbirds of any species, but enough to make it worth our while to host them and enjoy their visit!
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Sep 25, 2012 7:56 AM CST
Oh Becky, I am really loving all this great information you are supplying about Hummingbirds here in Florida! I have four or five feeders and will make a batch of sugar/water and put them out tomorrow since it's raining here right now. The Bottlebrush tree is finished for the season but the Clerodendrum and Pentas are still blooming and although I haven't noticed any Hummingbird around lately ... hopefully the feeders will attract them.

Thanks for the link to All About Birds ... I love that site and will go read abut the Rufous, which is a gorgeous Hummingbird (but one I've never seen). When I was in Southern California a couple of years ago I got a picture of a little Hummer but I don't know which one it was.
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Sep 25, 2012 9:41 PM CST
Lin (and others) - Watch for the hummers in the early morning (right before dawn) when they are really hungry and then again late in the afternoon when they are filling up before dark. I currently see them most often between 6:00 - 7:30 am and 5:00 - 6:30 pm in the afternoon. At those times, they may come to a feeder or flowers every 15-25 minutes. They are quick though, so it's easy to miss them.

The hummer migration will continue for another month or so. If you don't see any yet, have patience! There is a good chance one or more will still find you. After roughly the end of October through early November, any birds you see at that time may very well have claimed your yard or an area in your neighborhood as their winter territory. Once they find a good food source to sustain them, they tend to stick around for the winter and into early Spring before migrating North once again to breed. At that time, some of the Mexico birds make their return flight across the Gulf to arrive here in Florida in the Spring to breed or continue their northward journey as well. So it's very possible to see hummers year round here in central and north Florida.

Some birds will trap-line during their stay. That means they will use different nectar sources around an area. Other people put out hummer feeders around my neighborhood and it's not uncommon that one or two hummers will zip around to use more than one feeder. Often though, the feeders are guarded by a territorial hummer that will try to protect "it's" feeder and chase off any other hummers. That is typical behavior of hummingbirds. They do not like to share their food source once they've claimed it. Just enjoy your one (or more) birds. Sometimes the aerial fighting over a feeder can be quite entertaining. Rarely if ever do they fight to the death. Place feeders around your yard that are located in hidden sight lines, so that a hummer claiming one feeder can't see the other feeders. That will reduce any fighting and may allow one bird per feeder instead a single bird claiming all the feeders. I know of people that hang as many as 20 feeders in the coldest months of winter and get lots of hummers. Most plants no longer flower during the coldest months, so any flower dependent birds may be looking for another food source. That is why hummers use feeders more during winter than in summer.

Two plants that often produce blooms in winter that I have had hummers use and claim are: Cape Honeysuckle and Coral Honeysuckle. I am sure there are other plants. Those two just happen to be my best winter blooming hummer plants. Some folks believe you can never have enough blooming nectar plants and feeders! Big Grin

Keep your feeders cleaned and refilled. Once the hummers find you, you'll discover what a joy they are to have around. And get your camera ready. They are a lot of fun to photograph! And remember, if they find you to be a gracious host, they will often return each year to delight you or a new hummer will find you!

Happy Hummer Watching!
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden

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