South American Visitors
I WAS STARING OUT my kitchen window in a daze while I mulled over what this week’s article would be about. All of the travel tales, so far, have been about my pre-marriage years, but Mimi and I took some great escapes together after we got married, and even after we added our two kids to the menu. So far, I have tried to stay somewhat chronologically in order, so I have a few more great trips to share while I ventured out solo. I remind myself from time to time that Miss Herman McKenzie put together great garden articles every week for 50 years. That thought makes me realize I need to slow down. It becomes obvious that almost every day of my life is worth writing about as far as garden related things and my interest in all cultures. The folks at the Northside Sun have kindly giving me a lot of freedom to write about the things I enjoy. My goal is to provide something positive and authentic for anyone interested to bite into. I hope I am providing gardening information that will be inspiring and helpful and I love to shine the light on all of our great garden centers, growers of produce and anything agriculture. If you’ve been a regular reader of my musings, first of all, thank you, and second you know by now that the blessed life that I’ve lived has been steeped in agriculture.
Like I said before, I was staring out my window while mulling these things when something caught my eye. I realized a fellow traveler had shown up in my yard. A Ruby Throated hummingbird whizzed past bringing me out of my daze. These little dudes do some traveling continuously searching for nectar. They can travel up to 23 miles a day. There are 10 species of hummingbirds that have been identified in Mississippi. The Ruby Throated is the most common.
IN FEBRUARY OR MARCH hummingbirds begin to show up. The males appear a week or so earlier than the females. The male Ruby Throated hummers don’t have any white tips on their tails, the females do and, as usual in the bird world, they are more brightly colored. Hummingbirds don’t travel in flocks so their arrival is staggered. They leave Central and South America to arrive in Mississippi around March which is thousands of miles away, not bad for the worlds smallest bird. They do this amazing feat every year for three to five years by beating their wings 50 to 70 times a second. Hummingbirds have been known to cross the Gulf of Mexico in one day, that is 650 miles. That uses a lot of energy which they get from the nectar of brightly colored red, white, scarlet and orange flowers. They need to take in 50% of their body weight in flower nectar each day. Hummingbirds get their protein requirements by eating spiders and insects. For that reason I don’t use insecticides on the plants that are there to attract hummers. What amazes me most about them is that not only do they typically go back to the same yard each year but they show up on the same day as the year before within a day or two. Once you have hummers coming to your place as long as you provide either the right environment or the feeders filled with sugar water they will come back every year. That’s pretty cool when you consider what they must go through to get here. This month is the time you may see some of the regulars peeling off for South America and you may begin to see some new ones that have been hanging around someone’s yard up north as they pass through on their way south of the border. Keep the feeders out for a while longer or at least until you’re not seeing any more over a two-week period, that’s the sign that the show is over. It may last close to November depending on the weather.
TO GET READY FOR their arrival in March is to plant the right plants this fall and the spring. They are attracted to bright colors some of which will provide more nectar than others. Use bright colored annuals to lure them in but make sure to plant plants that provide lots of nectar to ensure they will stay or supplement with the sweet water in the bright colored feeders. It’s best not to hang the feeders near your other bird feeders as they can be intimidated by larger birds. You won’t need the sugar water once you get the correct combination of plants going. You would need to plant the right nectar providing plants that either bloom for the entire season or at least crossover with other varieties so something is always blooming. It is best to plant a large group of flowering plants rather than a single source. The extra blooms provide more food and are more noticeable and since hummingbirds are fiercely territorial you should plant in several places throughout the landscape. Annuals that attract them with bright colors are begonia, geranium, impatiens, nasturtiums, petunias and zinnias. Some of the perennials that bring them in or bee balm, butterfly weed, cannas, lobelia cardinalis, ajuga, lantana, phlox, verbena and salvia. There are vines, trees and shrubs that will help you bring also such as azalea, yucca, honeysuckle, cypress vine, tulip poplar, and locust. You get the picture, anything bright colored with tube shaped flowers. A great way to learn more about attracting hummingbirds and to see lots of them is to take a road trip to either the Pascagoula River Audubon Center or go to the Humming Festival sometime in September at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. Unfortunately the festival is canceled this year due to the pandemic. They have a prime spot for viewing and learning about hummers.
ATTRACTING THESE WORLD TRAVELERS to your yard is a fun hobby that will only make your landscape look better and, of course, kids love to watch them. I’ve seen calm people get the curious little birds to land on their hands. We sell hummingbird rings for that purpose, well we actually give them away to the kids that come to our garden center who seem thrilled at the idea of having them buzzing around them while they sip nectar from a nectar filled ring on their fingers. I hope you will have a worldly adventure in your own backyard, get the right plants going and make it a setting that is calm and peaceful for yourself and for your visitors from South America every year. There are so many changes occurring in our world right now, I don’t want to bury my head in the sand because I think the changes are interesting. Some of these changes have been a long time coming. At the same time I want to protect my mental and physical health by not letting some of the stuff that’s going on get me down. Staying busy in my yard and helping others with their yard has been a great relief for me. I am hoping that everyone finds their peace.