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Now years later I have split off several other clumps and planted them along outside of fence, she is allowed to drink from those Beebalms. She never ventures near HIS CLUMP. The second summer after they came to dwell here, I was honored with presence of their offspring. In awe I watched her teach tiny gold baby about size of bumblebee to drink nectar from Phlox. Pushing its head into bloom with that needle sharp beak of hers until babe got idea of how to feed itself. Standing there witnessing her repeatedly jabbing tiny head with that sharp needle beak, I had to rub my own head imagining how that must feel. Is it any wonder that little thing quickly caught on and was drinking without assistance?
The same pair returns every summer to dwell in flowers and raise their young. I am treated with watching them perched on patio trellis in early evening shadows, drawn there for Delphinium that waves beside it.
It is common knowledge that Ruby-throated Hummingbird is attracted to color red. Truth be known, they enjoy any scented flower from my observations of their behavior. Plants that they feed on here include Sweet Alyssum, all colors of Tall Phlox and Beebalm (monarda), perennial and annual Salvias, scented Roses, geraniums no matter what color they are and Delphiniums. I am sure that a lengthier list of plants one can add to garden to keep hummingbirds well fed and returning year after year.
Through gift of a book about Hummingbirds, I discovered that though there 150 different types of these tiny jewels only one, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, flies as far north as eastern United States. The smallest Hummingbird is only two inches long, and largest measures eight and a half inches in length. No matter their size, as a species they wears feathers color of every brilliant jewel tone known to man.
The reason that their feathers are so brilliant is because they are not colored with pigment as any other bird’s plumage. For some reason this particular breed’s feathers are black and filled with a substance known as “melanin”. The feathers are only colored as white light reflects off them. This is reason for colors to change when sunlight shines from a different direction.
If a Hummingbird feather is crushed, it turns black and is never irridescent again. Even after death their feathers retain their ability to flash color in sunlight forever unless mangled or smashed. Other breeds of bird feathers lose their color slowly after death as pigments face over time. Many stuffed examples of birds in museums must have their feathers painted after a while to show visitors what they look like. Hummingbirds require no such treatment so long as feathers are not damaged. The brilliancy of their feathers lasts forever, much like precious gems whose colors they contain, making them a very special bird indeed.
Raised by a highly respected & successful landscape contractor in the metro Detroit area, Clayton wanted a career in anything but landscaping! Now an award-winning landscape designer, Clayton runs Flowerville Farms, a mail-order nursery in Michigan. Read more of her articles at LostInTheFlowers.com.