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Hummingbirds – Important Pollinators in the Willamette Valley

By Jamie Powell | November 30, 2015
Anna's_hummingbird
Male Anna’s Hummingbird

 

“Hummingbird darts lightly through the world, spreading its message of joy and beauty, and teaching us to appreciate the wonder and magic of everyday existence. Hummingbird brings the gift of joy. Learn to laugh and be happy.”  -Unknown

 

Lifestyle:

Hummingbirds are a very appealing pollinator to the garden.  They are a lot of fun to watch with their colorful plumage and unique flight patterns.  Hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover in the air and fly backwards because their wings rotate at the shoulder joint.  Male hummingbirds have courtship displays that are quite impressive as well.  They will fly between 60 to 120 feet in the air before diving toward the ground at up to 60 miles per hour and then quickly arc back up again.  Besides attracting a mate, the purpose of this display can also be to ward off males or to defend nesting and feeding territories.

There are two hummingbirds that are most common in the Willamette Valley: the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) and Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna).

Both birds collect nectar from flowers, sugar-water from hummingbird feeders, sap from holes in trees (often drilled by woodpeckers), small insects, and spiders.

In order to attract hummingbirds, it is important to provide the basic necessities: cover, food, water, and space.  Hummingbirds are stimulated by color, especially the color red.  Orange or pink are also more visible to them than other colors.  Tubular shaped flowers are best, and it is important to multiple plant varieties that will bloom throughout spring and summer to provide a food source.  Hummingbird feeders are important in winter for Anna’s Hummingbird.

Plants Pollinated by Hummingbirds:

Some good native plants for hummingbirds and their blooming period include:

Trees:

dogwood (Cornus servicea, C. nuttallii); June

crabapple (Malus fusca); June

Shrubs:

red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum); March and April

salmonberry (Ribes spectabilis); Early Spring

Perennials/Wildflowers:

Colombine (Aquilegia formosa); Spring to Summer

Bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa); April to June

Penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii); April to August

Hedge-nettle (Stachys cooleyae); Summer

Annual Flower:

Clarkia (Clarkia amoena); Summer

Vine:

Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa); Spring

 

Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus

Rufous_Hummingbird_
Female

 

Selasphorus_rufus_male2
Male

 

 

Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna

Annas_Hummingbird_male_Steve_Berardi
Female

 

Calypte_anna_male_Alan_Vernon
Male

About the Author

Jamie Powell

Jamie has a background in horticulture and soil science. She currently enjoys working on an organic vegetable farm in Corvallis and interns at the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District.

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