Hummingbirds are great pollinators, indeed often a major source of pollination for a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. In fact according to the Forest Service, “In the continental United States, hummingbirds are key in wildflower pollination.” In other countries and in Hawaii other species of birds are important pollinators.
Jill wrote a great article on National Pollinator’s Week just below and I want to follow-up with a focus on hummingbirds as pollinators.
As shown in these photos hummingbirds really ‘get into’ their work by putting their bills deep inside of tubular shaped flowers like the agastache (often known as Beard-Tongue) plant shown. Of course the hummer is after the nectar in the flower but as it sips away it also gets the pollen in the flower on it and then when it goes to other flowers it transfers the pollen. This video clip shows a hummer in action as it moves from one agastache flower to the next, sipping nectar and transferring pollen.
Attracting hummingbirds to your yard usually requires more than just putting out a hummingbird feeder as they come to these to supplement the nectar they get from flowering plants. They need good habitat that provides not only some shade and shelter but the possibility of nesting. And they need tiny insects such as spiders that are important sources of protein they need and that they feed to their babies.
Good native plants that provide nectar for hummers include trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma), lemon beebalm (Monarda citriodora), wild bergamont (Monarda fisulosa), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) as well as native salvias (but be aware most commercial growers use non-native salvia).
Other plantings for hummers include trees and shrubs with an emphasis on creating layers of plantings. As Jill noted, it is important to avoid pesticides whenever possible. Not only can pesticides directly harm hummers but they kill the small spiders and other insects that hummers need to satisfy their protein needs.
Did you know that even if hummers only migrate through your area you can be a big help to them by providing migratory stop-over habitat? This is very important especially these days when large parts of the country are in drought conditions with limited native plants to provide the nectar that hummers need for their journey. So help out a hummer by providing not only a hummingbird feeder but native nectar plants and a good habitat for them to find shelter and insects for protein.
Are you a hummer helper?