• Year-round hummingbirds of the Sierra foothills

    by  • September 14, 2016 • Sierra Foothills, Wildlife

    Attracting Hummingbirds to the garden…

    Plant a hummingbird garden and they will come!  Lure them right into your own garden with a proper feeder or this list of plants so that you can enjoy them.  Be sure to keep binoculars and a zoom camera handy.  Hiding behind the drapery may become a habit when you begin attract these living ‘flowers’ to your garden.

    Did you know? Some hummingbirds near Yosemite and the Sierra National Forest don’t need to migrate,…we are considered south enough for them, even in mild snow areas.

    What do you call a group of hummingbirds? A charm!

    What do you call a group of hummingbirds? A charm!

    Anna’s Hummingbird: Our winter hummingbird

    Rufous, Calliope, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds have enough sense to leave for Mexico and the Gulf Coast by late summer, but Anna’s hummers stay all winter.  Since the 1930s, this tiny, jewel has been flying further and further north to the Oregon border, searching out the eucalyptus trees they favor


    Anna's Hummingbird

    Anna’s Hummingbird, photo by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

    Anna’s Hummingbird is the most common of our mountain area hummers.  How did Anna get ger name?  It all happened in France.  René Primevère Lesson, a French naval surgeon and naturalist, collected the bird for the private collection of Prince François Victor Masséna, the 2nd Duke of Rivoli and amateur ornithologist, and named it for his wife, duchess of Rivoli, Anna de Belle Masséna. Ooh-la-la!


    Calliope Hummingbird

    Calliope Hummingbird, photo by Ed Post

    Interesting Facts about Hummingbirds from the Hummingbird Monitoring Network in Mariposa

    • In our area, 85% are Anna’s Hummingbirds
        • 8% are Black Chinned
        • And 8% are Rufous
    • Hummingbirds occur only in North and South Americas.
    • If your feeders are empty at the end of the day, you probably have more than 150 birds visiting it!
    • What you think are baby hummingbirds, are really full grown Calliope hummingbirds. The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest breeding bird in North America and the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world!


    Black chinned hummingbird

    Black chinned hummingbird by by R. Matlack


    Allen's Hummingbird

    Allen’s Hummingbird by JBM Wildlife

    A humane Hall trap, lowered quickly over the feeder, allows scientists and volunteer of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network to keep records that help preserve hummingbird habitats.

    Photos by Linda Chambers and Lanny Chambers

    Photos by Linda Chambers and Lanny Chambers

    Duane and Barbara Robinson, of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network, have caught and banded thousands of birds and one female  was caught 35 times, proving that she lived and returned to their property year after year.

    Feed the birds, all year round

    Unless they freeze, your feeders can stay out all year round.  The Anna’s Hummingbird lives here in our area all year.


    Hummingbirds feeders

    Hummingbirds feeders


    Sugar and water=Hummingbird food

    Sugar and water=Hummingbird food

    Besides the hummingbird favorite plants, hanging a feeder will keep plenty coming to you all year round.  Be responsible and keep them clean. Hot, soapy water once a week or whenever you fill them. Red dye is unnecessary, as most hummingbird feeders have red parts that attract the birds nicely.

    The recipe is 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.  If you forget, just look at your hand!  I put 1 cup each, water and sugar into a large plastic measuring cup and microwave for 5 minutes, then I add three more cups of water.  This fills two large glass feeders as shown.

    Do you have one hummingbird who sits on a branch near the feeder and scares all the others away?  This is territorial behavior!  The solution is easy.  Hang TWO feeders ten feet from each other or around the corner, out of sight.

    Rufous Hummingbird

    Rufous Hummingbird, photo taken by Ryan Bushby

    Have you seen our ‘rare’ bird, the Rufous hummingbird?  He is one of the feistiest territorial hummers.

    Feeder Tips:

    1. Use Vaseline or a product called Tanglefoot on the plastic cord to keep ants away.
    2. Apply vegetable or baby oil to the sippers on your feeder to discourage wasps
    3. I hang feeders from bungee cords for easy removal when they need refilling
    4. After I hang the feeders, I hose them off to remove any sticky sugar that will attract ants


    Glass, large capacity hummingbird feeder

    Glass, large capacity hummingbird feeder is convenient


    Planting for Hummingbirds

    Plant these to attract the most Hummingbirds.

    Bee Balm, Butterfly Bush, Flowering Quince, Coral Bells, Manzanita, Petunia,, Salvia, Foxglove, Hosta, Snapdragon, Lupine and Columbine.

    Flower fragrance has little effect on whether hummingbirds will like them…they go with the most colorful target.  That’s why they’ll try to dive bomb you if you’re wearing a red or pink shirt.

    Autumn sage pops with color

    Autumn sage pops with color

    If you want to skip feeders, Like I have for the past three years, just plant several Autumn sage plants near where you sit outside.  This wonderful deer and drought resistant plant blooms all summer, with a big flush of color in Fall and the hummingbirds adore them,…they will still come to you!


    Lone Hummingbird

    Photos by
    Sue Langley unless noted..


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.