|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Dear Alice, Hummingbirds are drawn to red, pink, and orange flowers. Somgood hummingbird flowers are impatiens, salvia, lilies, trumpet vine, and monarda (bee balm). Although trumpet-shaped flowers are famous for attracting hummingbirds, the diminutive blossoms of coral bells receive more hummer attention than any flower in the garden except columbines. It's best to plant several kinds of flowers, so that something will be in bloom for hummingbirds all the time, whether they are migrating north in spring, spending the summer (if you're lucky), or heading south in the fall. Hummingbirds prefer flowers planted in big same-species clumps, rather than scattered around. And of course you will want to avoid chemicals and sprays. Hummingbird feeders impose a responsibility on the provider. Tobe safe, they must be clean, and that is a challenge in hot weather. The solution should be changed at least every other day, even if no hummingbirds are using it, so that it doesn't ferment or get moldy. Once a week the feeder must be washed with vinegar and water or a 10% chlorine solution and scrubbed with a baby-bottle brush. (Most experts advise against using soap or detergent.) If all this is too much trouble, just plant the flowers and skip the artificial feeders. You'll still attract hummingbirds, and you won't be harming them with unsanitary feeders. Here's the recipe for hummingbird syrup. Boil four cups of water and stir in one cup of white sugar. Do not use honey, which can cause a fatal fungal infection on the birds' tongues. Do not add food coloring to the solution. The red color on the feeder is sufficient. You can store the excess syrup in the refrigerator for a week or two. Hang the feeder where you can see it from a window. If ants discover the feeder, discourage them by applying petroleum jelly to the wire that suspends the feeder. If bees begin to dominate, purchase a hummingbird feeder that comes with bee guards. The following information was taken from the website http://www.derived.net/hummers/humday.html Experts empahasize the fact that Red dye is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY to attract hummingbirds. In fact, there are reports of informal experiments using side by side feeders, one with red syrup and one with plain, and given this choice the birds refused to use the red syrup. Natural flower nectar is clear, not red. Hummingbirds don't look at nectar anyway, they look for flowers of the right shape and color, and nearly all hummingbird feeders are red plastic. For the ones that aren't, tie on some red ribbon or surveyor's tape if the birds need help finding them. Another excellent site on hummingbirds can be found at http://www.portalproductions.com/h/index.html I hope this is worthwhile information for your project. June Wingert RM ( ASM ) Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Texas
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