Hummingbirds: Tiny, Feisty, and Fun to Watch

We’re seeing hummingbirds with greater frequency around the garden. I suppose they are getting ready for their migration to southern Mexico and Central America, where they spend the winter.

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One morning, I had just stepped out the front door when – voooom! – something very small whizzed past my head. I looked up to see one – no, two – Ruby-throated Hummingbirds having an aerial jousting match. After chasing off its rival, the victorious hummer proceeded to chase off a Monarch butterfly, and then a much larger Goldfinch.

In the front garden, the Ruby-throats feed mostly on the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), though I have also seen them drinking nectar from Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and Golden Glow (Rudbeckia laciniata). Oddly, I have never seen them feeding on any of the Monardas, though these are supposed to be hummingbird favorites.

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They also love some of the annuals growing in the front containers, especially Cigar Plant (Cuphea). They have a fondness for Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata) and all kinds of annual Salvias.

It’s so much fun watching the hummers feed as they hover like tiny helicopters, their wings beating up to 53 times per second.

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We have only the one species of Hummingbird in this part of the country, which leaves me feeling hummingbird deprived. In Arizona they have 18 species. In Ecuador, where my son lived for several months, they have 132!

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Hummingbird at feeder.

We have a hummingbird feeder in the Back Garden, and it does get some use. Hardy Lobelias, both Great Blue (Lobelia syphilitica) and Cardinal Flower (L. cardinalis) also attract the little guys. They also like some of the annual Impatiens, like the ‘Profusion’ New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), though not the other I. hawkeri varieties, from what I can tell.

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Which plants are hummingbird favorites in your garden?

60 Comments on “Hummingbirds: Tiny, Feisty, and Fun to Watch

  1. They like the Mexican Sunflowers (I have 4 in the yard), the purple Monarda and I’ve seen them darting in and out of the Blue Fortune Agastache although I can’t tell if they are feeding or goofing off in there. A hummingbird will zip into the Agastache and bees will fly out in all directions.

    My yard is blessed this summer with the most hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies I’ve seen in ten years. It’s been lovely.

    The photos in today’s post are gorgeous.

  2. Hummingbirds in spring can be meaner to an arborist climbing a tree than just about anything. Viscous dogs are not as scary.

  3. Early in the year, when they’re first arriving from the south, they like trumpet honeysuckle. Right now they favor salvias. I feel a need for a few more things that would appeal to them now — Helianthus, maybe some Tithonia. There is a stand of great blue lobelia down by the creek, so they may visit it…

    • I have some trumpet honeysuckle growing near the Clematis jackamanii. Actually, I just transplanted it. I really hope it does well there, I planted it in part to have another hummer magnet.

  4. Salvia, both ‘Love & Wishes’ and ‘Black & Blue.’ Saw one on the Dragon wing begonia. Tithonia of course! So many this year, as well as Monarchs. Lovely visitations! I’ll have to go watch the Agastache…

  5. Interestingly, hummingbirds love the Monarda in my garden. But they’ve also been known to fight like mad over my hardy Fuchsia. I’ve never seen one chase a butterfly away. They’re wonderful, I could watch them all day!

  6. I wish we had them this side of the Atlantic! Well done getting your photos, it can’t have been easy.

  7. They love the honeysuckles, hosta flowers, Cardinal Vine, and the salvias in my garden. We didn’t even put out our feeder very long this summer because they didn’t use it. There seems to always be something they like better blooming in the garden.

  8. I loved your question – answer – I wish. There are no humming birds in Europe. We are deprived; the nearest thing we have is Humming Bird Hawk Moth that really do look like miniature hummers.

  9. I decided to put up a feeder or two this year, and your post is a reminder that it’s time to do that. I haven’t heard any reports of hummers here yet. Apparently they’re still up in north Texas. But they’ll be here soon enough, and I’d like to attract some. At least I ought to be able to feed hummingbirds without having the pigeons move in on their feed.

  10. The hummingbirds love weigela around here but those blooms are long gone. Now I’ve seen them in the zinnia patch although there’s Tithonia in that section too. No monarda in my garden yet but I’ll be remedying that soon.

  11. I’m missing seeing hummingbirds, now that you’ve reminded me! Our HomeExchange partner should be seeing them visiting lots of flowers in our garden, from Salivas to Lobelia. They definitely should be starting to head back towards their overwintering grounds. We usually see our last ones in early October in Western North Carolina.

  12. Your hummingbird photos are phenomenal! I haven’t noticed any this year, but we removed their favorite plant so I’m not totally surprised. Thanks for sharing.

  13. We have been living in our current house for 8 years, and we have what I assume are the same hummingbird family come back, year after year. There are multiple generations, and they always claim the same spots, in the same crab apple tree each year. I keep a feeder up early in the year, when they first arrive, but by mid summer, I don’t bother any more, as my yard is full of flowers that keep them busy. They particularly like Tithonia, Lobelia, and Black & Blue Salvia. I’ve also seen them go to many other flowers, both annual and perennial, in the yard. And, strangely, there is something in the spruce tree in front of my neighbor’s yard that they seem to go for all summer long, but I’ve never been clear exactly what it is. Anyway, they have quite friendly personalities, and will fly up and hover to have a peek in our window sometimes. They’ll also fly all around me when I’m out working in the garden sometimes. I’ve seen where people have gotten them to land in their hands, or take nectar from their hands, but I haven’t got the patience to try it myself.

  14. I am so jealous! I have more feeders than ever this year but I wonder if they aren’t obscured by the trees they’re hanging from that keep getting, well, larger. I guess I need more red flowers. Cardinal Flowers front and back seem to have attracted them on occasion but I have barely seen any hummers. I used to have a butterfly bush they liked years ago but when I was told it was an invasive I pulled it out. Gotta rethink the yard for next year…

  15. The hummingbirds in our yard like zinnias, monarda and cardinal climber vine. We have a lot of runner bean blossoms but have not seen them attracted to them. Maybe I’m just looking at the wrong time.

  16. Great photos of the Hummingbirds .. and interesting to read about your Hummingbirds & comments from others. Here in Canberra, we have the Eastern spinebill who loves the nectar from our Peppermint Sage. Our Hummingbirds are competing with some very assertive bigger birds, (wattlebirds) for nectar .. but they are tenacious!

  17. 132 types of hummingbirds, wow! I love watching the hummingbirds. I don’t have a feeder, but they love my cardinal flowers, annual salvias, and fuchsias, among other things. It’s impressive that they try to take on such bigger birds than them!

  18. I had some hummers in my spigelia this year! I don’t have many hummingbird plants in my new garden but that will change this fall when I tweak the design of the front garden.. :o)

  19. Great photos, Jason! I enjoy watching these little creatures so much, I will definitely miss them when they head south for the winter. They are particularly attracted to the annual Salvias in my garden. They love ‘Black and Blue’ and ‘Wendy’s Wish,’ and this year I found a new variety of Salvia guaranitica called ‘Rhythm and Blues’ which they are really enjoying. This year I got smart and planted all these near my front porch and the patio so I can really see them up close.

    • Salvia guaranitica is the species for ‘Black and Blue’ also, I think. I’ve never seen ‘Rhythm and Blues’ but I’ll keep my eyes open for it. I try to plant stuff so we get a good look at the birds and butterflies from inside the house.

  20. Great photos of the hummingbirds. We’ve enjoyed watching them this summer. They check out the cleome but seem to favor Salvia ‘Black and Blue’.

  21. Show off, LOL. I’ve seen lots of hummingbirds, but haven’t gotten a good picture of one this year. By the time I grabbed my camera yesterday, all the goldfinches feeding on the black-eyed Susans had taken off too.

  22. These are incredible photos! We’ve had more HBs with us all summer this year. Usually, it seems like only females during the middle of the summer, but this year we had two resident males (I could tell they were repeats because of their sizes and behaviors). One or more females, too. Today it was hummingbird central here–probably because the northern kiddos are migrating through. I’ve read that the hummingbirds tend to follow the blooming Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) from the north to the south, and mine is in full bloom right now. That is one of their favorites, along with Zinnias, Tithonias, Impatiens, Asclepias, Cosmos, Hostas, Salvias…so many that they love! They are so sweet (and mean to each other), aren’t they? I’m a little sad to think they’ll be gone soon…

  23. Hello Jason, I wish we had hummingbirds here, they’re so exotic and fascinating to watch. While we do have many plants with long tubular flowers that hummingbirds would love, alas, it’s not enough to attract them to these shores. Enjoy yours, you’re so lucky to have them and what wonderful pictures of them too!

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