INSIDE THE NUMBERS

NECTAR NATION 2020-2023

Each season, the patio features 6-10 species of salvia grown in containers and 10-20 species of ‘other’ plants, such as verbena, lantana, zinnia and celosia, also grown in containers. The plants are annuals that bloom from Spring until first frost. In addition to the plants, three plastic nectar feeders filled with homemade sugar water provide additional offerings. The feeder’s homemade sugar water consists of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.

Each container is numbered, placed in the same location each season and observations are recorded in a spreadsheet.

The ruby-throated hummingbirds are attracted to almost anything with nectar but some definitely do better than others. Color does not appear to have as much influence as size and shape does, at least on this patio.

DO HUMMINGBIRDS PREFER FEEDERS OR FLOWERS?

The ruby-throated hummingbirds displayed a clear preference, at least on this patio, visiting the flowers 93.4% of the time, while visiting the nectar feeders (prepared with a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water), 6.6% of the time.

Interestingly, the feeders experienced peak activity in May, before the plants began to fully bloom providing an important source of food early in the season.

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FLOWERS VISITED 2020-2023
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FEEDERS VISITED 2020-2023

FLOWERS AND FEEDERS VISITED 2020-2023

WHAT IS THE RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS FAVORITE FLOWER?

Each season, the annual patio container garden typically features six to ten species of salvia and ten to twenty species of other plants, such as verbena, lantana, zinnia and celosia. These colorful plants are annuals that bloom from spring until first frost.

Over the past four seasons, the salvia was visited 91.6% (14,781 visits) of the time, while the other plants were visited 8.4% (1,364 visits) of the time.

The individual species of plants used on the patio vary each season depending on availability at the local garden center, and the individual plant names are unique to each brand, but the seasonal results have been similar.

Salvia number three, shown in the above map, holds the single season visit record – logging 951 visits in 2023.

Midnight Blue Salvia
Salvia
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SALVIA
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OTHER FLOWERS

SALVIA VS OTHER FLOWERS 2020-2023

HOW MANY HUMMINGBIRDS VISIT PER YEAR?

Spring begins with the eager anticipation of their arrival. Over the past four years, the patio has transformed into a bustling haven for ruby-throated hummingbirds, despite living in a densely populated suburban setting and having a small space to work with.

The sightings have increased each year, along with my efforts to cultivate a diverse array of plants to attract them—and to see which plants receive the most visits.

It’s not just about bird-watching; it’s about finding serenity and joy in the natural beauty of the backyard.

Viewing hours are typically early morning and early evening and sightings are logged through visual observation.

In 2023, despite fewer observing hours and a relentlessly rainy summer, the sightings of ruby-throated hummingbirds skyrocketed with 3,261.

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AVERAGE SIGHTINGS PER YEAR
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SIGHTINGS 2020-2023

SIGHTINGS 2020-2023

WHAT MONTH DO THE MOST HUMMINGBIRDS VISIT?

Typically, July has been the busiest month with some days logging over 100 visits. However, 2023 saw record setting visits across every month except for July. Some other notable stats from 2023, the month of May was busier in 2023 than in three prior years combined. And, for the first time, there were visitors in October which had more visitors than in May.  The earliest visitor arrived on May 2 and the latest visitor, occurring this past year, on October 14.

MONTHLY SIGHTINGS 2020-2023

HOW MANY MALE HUMMINGBIRDS VISIT?

This gets trickier to answer as a juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird looks similar to an adult female. The male does not develop a full ruby colored gorget until after a year of age. There are times where you can see red appearing on the throat toward the end of summer, but for the observational statistics, only adult males with fully developed gorgets were recorded. The males, when they do make an appearance on this patio, often do so on the edges of light.

The past four years have seen a huge increase in year-over-year adult male sightings – from just 5 sightings in 2020 to 387 sightings in 2023! Research suggests hummingbirds may return to the same location each year1. This behavior is called site fidelity, possibly explaining the increase in male sightings. Nonetheless, it’s heartening to see this rise over time!

1 Lynch, M. (2022, July 6). Hummingbird research: Banding the tiniest of birds Retrieved from https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/ask-a-scientist-a-special-handler-of-hummingbirds

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ADULT MALES
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OF SIGHTINGS

ADULT MALES AND FEMALES

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

SITTING

THE PERCH

The ruby-throated hummingbirds seem to use almost anything to perch on near or on the patio and keep watch over the nectar. Over the past four seasons, the perches have been used 1,220 times during their 8,423 visits – 14.4% of the time.

The longest undisturbed, stationary perch lasted 25 minutes while perched on the tiny swing attached to the copper trellis.

SEEKING

CURIOUS BIRDS

These birds appear to be very curious about their surroundings. The more they visit the patio, the more comfortable they appear to become. They may fly up to you and hover while chirping at you, perch on the plant stems in the containers for extended visits, sip from your tabletop flowers and even perch on your finger while feeding.

LORDING

YARD BOSS

Lording
1. Act in a superior and domineering manner toward (someone).

Despite an abundance of nectar, the yard boss typically has no tolerance for other hummingbirds. Any hummingbird that enters its territory gets chased away immediately. Over the past four seasons, 1,008 battles have occurred during the 8,423 sightings – approximately 1 in 8 visits resulting in confrontation.

PATIO LIFE

IF YOU PLANT IT – THEY WILL COME