Ralph Dessau gave the Boquete community a great presentation on Hummingbirds. He was gracious enough to send me this information to pass on to all.
How to make a Hummingbird Habitat
Hummingbirds are one of Panama’s special delights, but they are so fast that many people don’t even notice them. Yet, Panama is blessed with 59 species. Some live in beach areas, while others thrive in woods or the mountains. In Chiriquí I have seen six different species, the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, the Violet Sabrewing, the Blue-tailed Emerald, The Snowy-breasted Hummingbird and unique to Chiriquí, the Volcano Hummingbird (in Finca Lerida). And if you enjoy hummingbirds, the best way to attract them is not with sugarwater feeders but with their favorite flowers.
The hummingbird diet consists of two ingredients – flower nectar for energy and tiny insects for protein. We need not worry about the latter, for insects are everywhere, and one benefit of hummers is their help in reducing the insect population. Instead we will focus on the nectar part of their diet – with sugar being its main ingredient. Hummingbirds use huge amounts of energy and must consume over half of their weight in sugar every day.
Nature fortunately arranged it so that certain flowers attract hummingbirds, an evolution that took millions of years. During this period these flowers underwent changes so they could no longer be pollinated by bees or other insects. But if they could produce sufficient nectar, they began instead to attract hummingbirds who then took over their pollination.
This means that hummingbirds, apart from being a delight to the eye, also play an essential role in nature by pollinating plants, which would otherwise become extinct. In simple terms, without the plants the hummingbirds can’t survive and vice versa. My main reason for writing this article is therefore to explain how by creating new habitats for hummingbirds we can prevent such a crisis.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a large garden or a few flower pots. You only have to fill them with flowers that hummingbirds can’t resist. It helps that hummingbirds have excellent taste, so their favorite flowers are also appealing to humans. Their favorite color is a deep red, but orange, pink, yellow and blue also seem to work. Many but not all of their flowers have a trumpet-like, tubular shape, which often prevents pollination by insects.
The plants vary from small, low-growing ones to giant trees. A patient observer can easily identify them by watching the hummingbirds in action, but below are a few that are common to Chiriquí – starting with small plants that are good for potting and ending with some medium-sized trees:
- Firecracker – also known as Russelia
- Heliconias & Bird of Paradise
- Lucifer – Crocosmia
- Shrimp Plant
- Dwarf Poinciana or Pride of Barbados
- Cordia (In dry areas)
- Powder-puff – also known as Calliandra
The Firecracker is a veritable hummingbird magnet and ideal for large pots, where the flowers can cascade over the sides. This has the added benefit that the pot can be placed where you can watch the visitors in action.
In Chiriquí the earth is so fertile that plants grow fast. A Dwarf Poinciana grows from a seed to a height of 5 ft in five months. The easy way to get plants is of course from a nursery. But when they have grown strong, it is often easy to propagate more by cutting off branches and sticking them in some good black soil. And as you gain more confidence, you should also try other promising plants. As long as they are red and of tubular shape, chances are that you won’t be disappointed.
You may also discover, that hummingbirds can be attracted to Hibiscus flowers, but they can be pollinated by insects and do not produce much nectar. So to find more winners it is better to observe hummers in action, for. Jardin es tu Jardin”, a little further up the road from the Panamonte.
An ideal hummingbird habitat must also meet some of their other needs. One is a shelter where they can rest, and a leafy bush without flowers will do very well. And being extremely territorial, they like a convenient perch, from where they can spot intruders on their domain and chase them away. When such a perch is not readily available, I make one from a four to five foot long slender branch, and stick it in the ground at what seems to be a good observation point. If that doesn’t work, I try to another location.
Hummingbirds also love to shower and they bathe regularly, where there is running water. The shower can be provided by a garden “mister”, which may be found in stores like Do-It Center, Melo or Novey, and a bird bath with a fountain should also work. After providing these additions to your garden, you should soon be enjoying the company of some delightful new neighbors. I have tried to be as specific as possible but will gladly answer any questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about hummers I also recommend a visit to:
Some videos he recommends.