Among the many pleasures of having a garden at the top of the list are visiting hummingbirds. Sitting on the deck or porch, enjoying the cooling evening breeze and listening to the songs of mockingbird and bobwhite, we can hear the whir of wings and know that another hummingbird has come to one of the feeders filled with sugar water. The metallic green glint of the ruby-throated hummingbird never ceases to amaze and delight. No wonder John James Audobon called hummingbirds "glittering garments of the rainbow."
Part of the appeal of hummingbirds is that not only are they the tiniest of all vertebrates, but, relative to body size, they have the largest flight muscles, the biggest brain, the fastest wing beat, the most rapid heartbeat, the highest body temperature, the greatest appetite, and a remarkable stamina that allows them to migrate thousands of miles each year.
Hummingbirds can fly up to 66 miles per hour with up to 200 wing strokes per second. They are the only birds that can fly up, down, sideways, and backwards. With their unique hovering ability, they feed on as many as 1,500 flowers each day and drink twice their weight in sugar water daily.
Hummingbirds readily adapt to gardens when feeders and nectar-filled flowers, plus perches and nesting sites, are provided. Hummingbirds are most readily drawn to red, tubular flowers, but they also find orange and pink flowers attractive. Try to choose plants that bloom at different seasons.
Include trees and shrubs that provide shelter for the birds. These should be within 10 to 20 feet of the nectar-filled flowers. Hummingbird nests are always lined with soft plant fibers, such as the fuzzy stems of cinnamon fern, pussy willow catkins, or milkweed seeds, so include some of these plants, too. It should go without saying to avoid pesticides, as hummingbirds consume insects as well as nectar.