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Keeping hummingbirds happy

Keeping hummingbirds happy

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The season for ruby-throated hummingbirds will start soon. These tiny, colorful birds are the most common hummingbird species in the Brazos Valley and one of 18 species found in Texas. There are about 340 species in North and South America.

Hummingbirds attract human attention with their aeronautical acrobatics: They can fly up, down, zip backward and forward, and hover in midair.

Enticing nectar plants and feeders can bring these fun-to-watch birds to your yard. By making sufficient plants and insects available, one local master gardener has kept a few hummingbirds around through the summer.

Local nectar plants

At least 150 North American flowering plants develop nectar that attracts hummingbirds, which in turn pollinate the plants. Most of those plants are not attractive to bees. Hummingbirds also eat gnats, mosquitoes, flying ants, aphids and whiteflies.

Following are Brazos Valley flowers and their ranking as far as hummingbird attraction.

n Best: firebush, Chinese lantern, flowering maple, anise sage, pineapple sage and scarlet sage.

n Good: scarlet runner bean, bottlebrush, cardinal flower, Mexican cigar, crossvine, bleeding heart vine, coral honeysuckle, lantana, mimosa, pentas, powderpuff, Mexican sage, shrimp plant, trumpet vine, Turk's cap.

n Fair: glossy abelia, azaleas, barberry, red buckeye, coral tree, cypress vine, Chinese hibiscus, Japanese honeysuckle, honeysuckle bush, Louisiana iris, Carolina jessamine, Confederate jasmine, loquat, horsemint, pagoda plant, red-hot-poker, giant Turk's cap, weigela.

Feeders

Hummingbirds happily will sip at feeders filled with a sugar-water solution. Here's how to set up a feeder:

• Mix one part sugar to four parts water.

• Boil the solution one to two minutes. Let it cool before filling the feeders.

• Store excess solution in your refrigerator.

• Refill the feeders just before the evening feeding time every week during cool days and as often as every three days during the hot summer or whenever the feeders are empty.

• Hang the feeders fairly close to each other to reduce fighting among visiting birds.

• Continue to fill feeders during the fall until the birds have migrated south.

Hummer fest

Hummingbird information is widely published. Information will be available firsthand at the Annual Hummer/Bird Celebration on Sept. 13-16 in Rockport. For information about the activities, call 1-800-826-6441.

• Write to Elmer Krehbiel, master gardener, c/o Brazos County Office, Texas Cooperative Extension, 2619 Texas 21 W., Bryan, Texas 77803. His e-mail address is elmer.krehbiel@theeagle.com.

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