Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Hummingbirds, our smallest feathered friends, live only in the Americas. Of the 319 species, 15 are found in the United States and only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is common in Kansas. It nests along streams and woodland parks and is more abundant in the eastern half of the state. The rufous and broad-tailed hummingbirds can be seen during migrations. Ruby-throated hummers are a mere 3 1/2 inches long and weigh only 4.5 grams. This compares to a 5 1/4 inch, 27 gram house sparrow. The sphinx moth (adult form of the tomato hornworm), seen feeding at flowers during summer evenings, is sometimes mistaken for this darting atom of bird-life. Hummers can be seen in Kansas from mid-April to October. They winter along the Gulf Coast, Mexico, Panama, and Yucatan. Some even cross the 500 mile-wide Gulf of Mexico in about 20 hours, nonstop!

These small birds must consume large amounts of energy to compensate for their high metabolic rate. Feeding about every 10 minutes, they eat 1/2 of their body weight in insects and nectar each day. In order to prevent starving to death at night, hummingbirds go into a torpor or temporary hibernation and their heart rate lowers from 500 to 40 beats-per-minute.