A blanket of snow covers the ground, but with daytime temperatures beginning to rise, the intensity of the sun begins to show it's power over Winter.
In weeks to come, the smell of melting snow will give promise to new life with evidence of perennials soon to follow. That evidence is displayed by peaks of green emerging from the earth.
The daylight begins to grow, and the darkness becomes scarce. Familiar songs from years past once again alert our attention, and soon the garden is alive with songbirds, most familiar, and some new.
It's not solely about the return of the hummingbirds, but the process building up to their return. It's about the end of Winter, the return of Spring, new life across the continent, and a new season of stories and surprises in each and every garden.
This season is precious, but short-lived, so make sure you soak in every moment of what's to come!
Here's evidence of a successful past season, with a young Ruby-throat feeding from the rich Delphinium nectar. August 5, 2019. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Many hummingbirds throughout Mexico have recently felt that itch and urge to power up their wings and move back to a place they once knew. Within a week, some will start appearing on the southeastern shores of the United States. While their search for nectar filled flowers and feeders begins, anxious birders will experience excitement and develop heart palpitations at their first sightings.
While those people that have had hummingbirds in previous years will have theirs return to their garden, others will be looking for ways to attract for the very first time. Some people will live in regions very common with high numbers of hummingbirds, while others will need to do a bit more work in attracting lesser numbers in other regions.
First, we have to understand the basic needs of hummingbirds. Just a feeder can very well attract a hummingbird or more, but understanding some of the other needs will give us opportunities to not only attract hummingbirds but keeping them around, and choosing your garden above the rest. First of all, don't wait until you see a hummingbird before you start you're planning. They may very well be in the next county before you have your feeder up. The key is to attract the early males that will set up territory in prime locations across the continent. What are they looking for? Feeders are a must. They provide an unlimited source of food throughout all weather conditions. Place several feeders throughout your yard and garden, but don't cluster them in one tight area, or one dominant male will guard all of them and not allow others the opportunity to feed. Flowers naturally produce nectar, but should be planted in abundance. Create large targets of flowers. Don't just plant one pot of flowers, but many, forming large clusters. Those large clusters of flowers will be essential later on when the young birds leave the nest. One small pot of flowers isn't enough to keep a hummingbird returning. Hummingbirds are extremely territorial, and even the young birds develop this powerful aggression within the first week away from the nest. So to prevent a single bird from dominating one area, create several clusters throughout your garden or yard. It will allow multiple birds to feed, dominate their own territory, and be confident in having a sufficient source of food until they migrate south. If too much fighting occurs over one small area, many will move on to another garden or food source with less confrontation.
Water features are a great item to attract hummingbirds. We don't often times see bathing hummingbirds, but when you provide the necessary features that they love in a water feature, you'll see them returning frequently.
Oftentimes people will prune their trees perfectly by removing dead sticks or branches, but I can tell you without a doubt that hummingbirds will more often than not choose those dead sticks over the rest.
A few other things you can use of value are perches, swings, and colored jewels to get their attention and keep them interested.
Plan ahead and be prepared before they show up. Have that perfect garden laid out and ready for them when they arrive. Give them a reason or several to choose your garden over the rest. You may very well be in an area that has a lower population of hummingbirds, but if you follow these few things that I've suggested, it will give you the advantage over those that just put up a single feeder, or others that put them up late.
Ziggy, the Ruby-throat hummingbird, May 18th, 2019. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta Canada.