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Attracting Hummingbirds Into The Garden

Few things are more breathtaking than hummingbirds zipping through the garden, checking out what's in bloom and occasionally resting on nearby branches.  They frequent landscapes that provide a variety of plants with nectar rich flowers, access to water from birdbaths and water features and the ability to perch in neighboring trees and shrubs.

Left:  Adult Female Anna's Hummingbird, Photo by Paul Coral:  Right:  Adult Male Anna's Hummingbird, Photo by Paul Higgins

These small birds have amazing metabolism, with heart rates that can reach over 1000 beats per minute.  To fuel themselves they need to consume more than their weight in nectar and insects each day, often feeding every 15-20 minutes.  According to Washington Despartment of Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Russell Link, They store food in their crop, a thin walled sac that holds food and nectar, digesting it slowly while they are resting.  During the night and extended cold spells "hummers" go into a torpor, a semi-hibernation state, lowering their metabolism down to 1/15th of their normal rate.

Left:  Adult Female Rufous Hummingbird, Photo copyright: cdbtx, Monroe, WA:   Right  Adult Male Rufous Hummingbird, Photo by Jeff Larson

In Washington's Puget Sound region we are fortunate to have two hummingbirds that are commonly seen.  Our year-round residents, Anna's Hummingbirds are slightly larger, at 4" in length and weighing 0.15oz.  Birds are mostly iridescent green and gray.  Male Anna's are easily identified with their distinct rosy heads and throats. Rufous Hummingbirds are summer residents, migrating from the southwest region of Mexico.  They are  3.75" in length and weighing 0.12oz.  Females have greenish gold heads and back, with a white breast and iridescent reddish spot on the center of their throats.  Males have reddish-oranger throats and chin, with reddish brown (rufous) face and sides.  Their backs  and foreheads are sometimes green.

Because they consume both flower nectar and a variety of garden insects, it's important to have a pesticide free garden.  They are most attracted to tubular flowers that are bright red and orange, but they will frequent many other nectar rich plants.  Using taller annuals, perennials and shrubs will help to keep them out of harm's way from neighborhood cats.  "Hummers" have incredible memories, coming back to the same plants year after year.  insects provide necessary protein to their diet.  They are often observed eating gnats, mosquitoes, aphids and catepillars.  After eating spiders, hummingbirds will take their webs and integrate them in their golf ball size nests, fortifying their strength.

A Short List of Plants:

Trees:  Carolina Silverbell, Eastern Redbud, Flowering Crabapples, Japanese Snowbell, Pacific Madrona (native)      

Shrubs to Small Trees:  Dwarf Strawberry Tree, Red Buckeye, Elderberry (native)

Shrubs:  Charity Mahonia, Hardy Fuchsia, Mock Orange (native), Ninebark (native), Red Flowering Currant (native), Weigela

Vines:  Coral Honeysuckle, Trumpet Vine

Perennials:  Agastache, Crocoasmia, Lupine, Upright Lobelia, Penstemons, Salvia

Annuals:  Begonias, Nicotiana, Salvia, Tender Abutilon, Tender Fuchsia, Tender Geraniums

Left: Japanese Snowbell, Photo,;  Center: Charity Mahonia, Photo, Gardeners'; Left: Hardy Fuchsia, Photo, JeanRey Nursery

Left:  Red Flowering Currant, Photo,; Center:  Western Mock Orange, Photo, Bob Sikari; Right:  Cardinal LobeliLa

Left:  Agastache, Photo, Denver Botanic Garden,  Center:  Salvia "Blue Cloud", Photo,;  Right:  Abutilon "Apricot", Photo, Kees Hiddinga


1.  Audubon,  2. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, 3.  Link, Russell, Landscaping for Wildlife, copyright 1999, University of Washington Press



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