Hummingbirds – Important Pollinators in the Willamette Valley
“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
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:
dogwood (Cornus servicea, C. nuttallii); June
crabapple (Malus fusca); June
red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum); March and April
salmonberry (Ribes spectabilis); Early Spring
Colombine (Aquilegia formosa); Spring to Summer
Bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa); April to June
Penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii); April to August
Hedge-nettle (Stachys cooleyae); Summer
Clarkia (Clarkia amoena); Summer
Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa); Spring
Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus
Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna
About the Author
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.