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All,

Since my post on the hummer banding results in my yard, a number of you have
e-mailed me asking me to post a list of "preferred" plants. Since one of the
lists I'm posting this to is not a bird feeding/attracting list, consider
this a post on the habitat to look for hummingbirds in when planning a bird
count (Big Day, CBC, etc.)

Recap of my yard hummers:
On Tuesday January 18th, we trapped and banded 7 hummers: 3 Black-chinneds,
3 Ruby-throats, and one Rufous (already banded from the yard last year).
Three hummers avoided the traps (2 Ruby-throats and one Black-chinned) and
since then I've seen two new hummers (2 Black-chinneds) not marked. In the
past two weeks, I've seen 12 different hummers in my Valrico (east of Tampa)
yard. Since the first of the year, I've also seen a first year male
Selasphorous and a second female Selasphorous.

I had a visitor to my yard recently discussing the practice (in western
hummer spots) of accepting donations for sugar. The good(?) side of Florida
hummers is that you won't need to spend much on sugar. Even with 10 feeders
up for the past few weeks, I haven't used more than a cup or two of sugar
per week.

The real cost of hummer attracting here is maintaining the habitat and you
can see from my yard photos that I've been short on the time and energy for
that. Although, most of my plants could be maintained in hedges and
groupings that would be acceptable in many communities and still be
attractive to hummers. I'm sure it's best for the yard to be more on the
wild side but I also understand the requirements of communities. In my case,
it also doesn't hurt that an adjacent yard is similar to mine.
Link to photos of my yard:
http://rowdy13.tripod.com/hummeryard.html

A quick list of my "preferred" plants would be:

TREES and SHRUBS
*Bottle Brush (not weeping)
*Powder Puff
Various Citrus
Loquat
*Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictum)

PERENNIALS (larger)
*Pink Porterweed
*Red Pagoda Flower
*Fire Spike
Orange Justicia
Cape Honeysuckle
Coral Honeysuckle
Firebush
Turks Cap
*Chinese Hat
Pentas

PERENNIALS (smaller)
*Various salvias (sages)
*Various Shrimp Plants
*Russelias - equistiformis (Firecracker Flower) and sarmentosa
lantana
*Cigar Flower (and other Cupheas)
Pink Cestrum
Heliconias
Skullcaps

* Regularly used over the years and blooms in the winter.

I began collecting hummer plants by reading all books and articles on
attracting hummers and then trying to get one of every plant mentioned. I
also checked the tags on plants in nurseries and bought everything that was
called a hummingbird plant. The plants I've listed above are the ones that
survived and have proven themselves over time.

My home is pretty much surrounded with flowering plants instead of typical
"hedge" plants. These are less likely to "survive" a freeze but they will
grow back from the roots. I've done the same with bordering the property:
hedging one side with hibiscus, one side with vines, and the back with fruit
trees. The bird feeding area of my backyard started out as a small island in
the middle of the yard but the plants surrounding it wound up leaving just a
path between groupings of flowering plants. This center grouping is
highlighted by a clump consisting of a Powderpuff with a Red Pagoda Flower
(Clerodendrum speciosissimum) growing into it and a couple of orange trees.
If the Clerodendrum is not already listed as an invasive, it probably should
be, but it has been a preferred flower over the past couple of years. In the
front, I've got a "hedge" of Pink Porterweed, a cassia (now called a Senna),
a Lion's Ear, and a Cigar Flower. These have been preferred areas for a
number of birds.

It's hard to say what the "best" plant is, as through the years different
plants are preferred by different birds. The Pentas used to be the most used
plant in my yard and this year they go almost untouched. It could be that
things have grown up around them and they are not as easily accessed or just
that this year's birds like something else.

My recommendation for if you are trying to attract hummers is to try
different plants and group them. Give the hummers places to sit and view a
territory as well as giving them places to hide. Also, try to provide hidden
feeding areas that will allow for more than one territory in the yard. If
you're looking for a probable area for finding wintering hummers, look for
groupings of these plants and trees and shrubs of varying heights. Clean
feeders might also be a worthwhile clue.

Hope this helps,

Steve Backes
Valrico, FL
[log in to unmask]
Florida Hummingbirds Home Page:
http://members.tripod.com/~Rowdy13/floridahummers/home.html

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