goes skyward, hummingbirds take notice, especially if it’s native
beautiful climbing vine is visited often by hummingbirds and
long-tongued insects," says Helen Hamilton of the plant known
scientifically as Lonicera sempervirens. Hamilton, a Williamsburg,
Va., resident, is co-author of "Wildflowers and Grasses of
Virginia’s Coastal Plain."
In the wild,
coral honeysuckle twines and climbs on other vegetation, or sometimes
trails along the ground.
home garden, it looks wonderful on a fence, trellis or mailbox,"
also beneficial to butterflies because Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)
butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves, which caterpillars eat.
During winter, some leaves stay, making those tangled remains a comfy
shelter for small wintering birds, according to Hamilton.
honeysuckle is also known as trumpet honeysuckle for the whorled
clusters of red, tubular blooms at the ends of stems. Yellow stamens
and pistils emerge at the ends of the flowers. Flowers normally appear
in March and bloom on and off until October or November. Pruning for
control and shape is best done after the first flush of flowers. Green
fruits mature into lipstick-red berries that provide winter food for
many birds, Hamilton adds.
perennial grows all over the eastern United States and Canada, and
likes full sun in soil with average to moist drainage. Its root system
runs deep, sending runners to form more colonies.
A native of
eastern Asia, invasive Japanese Honeysuckle, or Lonicera japonica, is
a summer show of fragrant tubular flowers with shiny black berries
August to October, according to Hamilton. The plant grows more than 80
feet with stems that trail and climb over other vegetation.
North America in 1806 in Long Island, N.Y., Japanese honeysuckle has
been planted widely throughout the United States as an ornamental
plant, for erosion control, and for wildlife forage and cover.
Unfortunately, this alien vine is now on all lists as a highly
hummingbird:If you’ve ever watched a hummingbird, you know what an
amazing creature they are, especially since they are no more than four
inches long and weigh less than an ounce.
forward, backward, and even upside down, the wings beat 78 times each
second during regular flight and much more than that during a display
dive," says Hamilton.
is fast – more than 600 beats per minute — so they need a lot of
food to sustain that metabolism. Eating half their body weight each
day, they feed five to eight times per hour, up to a minute at each
feeding, using their long, grooved tongues to lap up nectar, according
major competitors for food are not other birds, but long-tongued
insects," she says.
feed also on insects, capturing them with the fringes on the edges of
look for early-blooming flowers such as columbines, trumpet
honeysuckle and azaleas. In summer, they like funnel-shaped native
plants such as wild bergamot, jewelweed and bergamot.
however, visit flowers of all colors, including trees and
shrubs," Hamilton says.
also like nectar-filled feeders in yards. Adrienne Frank, a Virginia
Master Naturalist with the Historic Rivers Chapter in Williamsburg (historicrivers.org),
says feeders should be filled with white sugar only, not brown sugar
or honey, one part sugar to four parts boiling water, cooled — and
no red coloring. It’s important to keep the feeders clean; Frank
recommends using a vinegar solution or bleach twice a week to clean
the feeders, because black mold harms the birds.
want hummingbirds in their yards need to avoid using pesticides to
kill protein-rich insects because the process eliminates that food
source for the birds, and hummers could die from feeding on flowers
that have been sprayed, according to Hamilton.
migration, male and female hummingbirds fly separately. Males court
females to breed and construct a nest of moss, lichens and spider webs
and lined with down from thistles or dandelions; the nest is about the
size of a quarter and typically six feet off the ground on the
horizontal limb of a tree, according to Hamilton. Males mate with
several females; females lay two eggs and raise the offspring alone.
There are 330
species of hummers in North and South America. Brian Taber of the
Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory says there are 19 species of
hummingbirds in North America, with 15 of those in the East. Seven
species visit Virginia, but only the ruby-throated hummingbird breeds
here, according to Taber. They typically begin the 600-mile trip back
to the Gulf of Mexico around Sept. 20.