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Florida is home to many beautiful and exotic bird species, but one of the most sought-after visitors is the hummingbird. Watching these tiny creatures gracefully flutter around your garden can be a mesmerizing experience. However, attracting hummingbirds requires some specific knowledge and preparation.
There are 338 known species of hummingbird, and they all live only in the Americas! However, only 16 of these species are found in the USA, and there is only one that breeds in Florida.
You may occasionally spot black-chinned and rufous hummingbirds during the migration season, but the only hummer that regularly spends the breeding season in the Sunshine State is the beautiful ruby-throated hummingbird.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is by far the one you're most likely to spot in Florida. Weighing in at only a quarter of an ounce (the weight of a penny), and measuring only three inches long, this really is a tiny bird.
The male's throat feathers are an iridescent, jewel-like red, giving the species its name. Females and juveniles have pale throats, but all have metallic green plumage on their back and wings.
Although some ruby-throated hummingbirds stay in Florida year-round, especially in the southern parts of the state, most will fly to Mexico or South America for the winter. They tend to arrive back in Florida during March.
The first sign that a hummingbird is nearby is often the loud humming sound created by these fascinating creatures as they beat their wings at a speed of up to 50 beats per second! Their call is a tiny squeak often described as 'mouselike'. Hummingbirds fly in an acrobatic way, often hovering and making quick turns in the air. They can even fly backwards and upside down!
The ruby-throated hummingbird eats nectar from flowers or from feeders. It will usually hover at a tubular flower, using its long bill to drink nectar from inside. At a feeder, it may hover or perch. You'll also see ruby-throated hummingbirds plucking insects from the air as they fly. They occasionally take spiders or small insects from spider webs.
Male hummingbirds are highly territorial. They will defend their preferred food sources, whether flowers or feeders, from other males.
The best way to keep your outdoor space attractive to hummingbirds is to choose plants that can provide nectar for them. Hummingbirds have been shown to prefer red, orange or pink flowers. This is because they learn by trial and error that flowers of these colors are likely to be a suitable food source.
In terms of shape, tubular flowers are best, as they tend to contain plenty of nectar. These can be single blooms; drooping clusters are also suitable.
It's important that you choose different varieties of plants with a range of blooming seasons. Having numerous nectar plants that flower in different seasons will help to ensure a constant supply of food for any hummingbirds that adopt your garden as their habitat. Nesting hummingbirds need a constant supply of nectar from March to September, so you'll need to choose a variety of plant species to ensure there's always something in bloom.
If possible, situate these nectar-rich plants in several separate groups. This will allow more than one of these highly territorial birds to feed in your garden at the same time without causing a hummingbird conflict!
These are our favorite hummingbird-friendly plants suited to the Central Florida climate and conditions. If you check the sunlight and soil requirements and choose a suitable location for them, these native plants should not need too much care once they are established.
Lobelia cardinalis, or red cardinal flower, is native to Central and North Florida but can be successfully grown in South Florida as well. This tall-stemmed perennial has bright red flowers that bloom from late summer to early winter. It is well-suited to damp environments such as water gardens or beside ponds or streams.
The beautiful coral honeysuckle - also known as trumpet vine, or trumpet honeysuckle - will bring a pop of color to your outdoor space with its long, tubular red or pink blooms. This native vine flowers prolifically in spring and continues to bloom sporadically through the summer, making it the perfect choice for a backyard hummingbird flower garden.
Asclepias tuberosa, aka butterfly weed or butterfly milkweed, is a native perennial with bright orange flowers that bloom throughout summer. It produces plenty of nectar, so it's perfect for hummingbird gardens. Butterfly weed needs a dry location with well-drained soil and plenty of sun.
Spotted bee balm, or horsemint, is a herbaceous perennial with stunning bracts that give it a beautiful appearance even after the flowers have faded. The small flowers, located just above the bracts, bloom from late spring through fall, making this an ideal flower for hummingbirds.
As well as choosing native plants to provide hummingbird nectar, some gardeners choose to supplement this with sugar solution in a suitable hummingbird feeder. A feeder can provide an extra source of food during nesting season.
Be sure to use cane sugar, rather than sugar substitutes or any other ingredients. A simple sugar water made with one part white sugar to four parts water is the recommended syrup for feeding hummingbirds. Heat together until the sugar is dissolved, then allow time to cool before placing outside.
It's important to empty and clean your hummingbird feeder twice a week during hot weather or once a week during cool weather. Otherwise the sugar syrup may begin to ferment, becoming toxic to hummingbirds. The Audubon Society has more information here on feeding hummingbirds.
If you'd like help with the design of your hummingbird garden, or with any aspect of your landscape design and maintenance, don't hesitate to get in touch with the friendly experts at LawnMore Gainesville.
For small projects, large renovations, and maintenance agreements for homes and businesses of any size, we’re ready to do an excellent job for you.