I wish I had a work force of hummingbirds to work in the nursery. They could haul pots, collect seeds, take cuttings, weed, answer the phone, deliver plants, protect the place from deer, chipmunks, and squirrels, all at the same time. The humming fights (bird brawls) might be a problem, though. Since hummingbirds have to eat twice their body weight in nectar and insects each day, they’re protective of their good food sources in the garden and will fight aggressively to defend them. Hummingbirds do tend to try the red flowers first but their sugar content is what they really are looking for regardless of color.
"Hummingbirds are capable of exerting strong selection on the nectar rewards of flowers" (Schemke and Bradshaw, PNAS, Oct. 12,1999, vol. 96, n21 11919-11915) The general tendency to frequent red flowers is not because hummingbirds like red flowers, but because bees avoid red flowers and the lack of bees means that there is usually better nectar quantity and quality in red flowers.
species of hummingbirds have been found in California.
Broad-billed hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris
Xantus's hummingbird, Hylocharis xantusii
Violet-crowned hummingbird, Amazilia violiceps
Blue-throated hummingbird, Lampornis clemenciae
Ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochus colubris
Black-chinned Hummingbird - Archilochus alexandri
Anna's hummingbird, Calypte anna
The following are species of concern and have been negatively impacted by the introduction of weeds and destruction of California’s habitat, primarily the coastal sage scrub plant community.
Allen's hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin (SC)
Costa's hummingbird, Calypte costae (SC)
Rufous hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus (SC)
Since nectar production is about 2-4 mg per flower (Lange, R. S. and P. E. Scott. 1999. Hummingbird and bee pollination of Penstemon pseudospectabilis. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 126: 99-106.) they need to consume 50g/day,(http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/refer ence/foodandwater.html#references) or visit between 1000 and 2000 flowers every day. They drink from each flower 2-3 times per day. So your yard needs between 400 and 1000 flowers to support one bird. That sounds ridiculous, but the nursery is supporting at least 20 birds in spring and summer, and 5-10 in winter (bad winters there are a few very cold birds out there, hustling coal.)
The ginger bread houses with frosting gardens are sterile to the wildlife. There is no wildlife value there. No hummingbirds flying around. There might be a few mangy, dispirited butterflies that were too weak to fly away, or a few wino hummingbirds hanging with the gang of English sparrows, starlings, jays and house finches. But there is not a colony of native wildlife nesting and breeding (uh-oh). Hummingbirds may come to those types of yards but they may just visit a few alien flowers and leave, or stay but be unable to breed, or be at risk for disease. They have certain types of plants that they use during certain times of the year. picture of a hummingbird on a manzanita.
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