Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hummingbirds are coming

The 15th of April does not just mean the open date of spring black bear season in Montana, nor is it just the income tax filing date- to me the 15th of April is a reminder that the hummingbirds will be back soon. Hummingbirds are one of the few birds we set out feeders for. So its time to get them get them ready.
But nearly as important as providing feeders is planting native plants that flower coincidental with their arrival. Here wax currants (Ribes cereum) and golden currants (R. aureum) are the first to bloom, and golden currants (like the one above) are just about to flower in our yard and in Missoula. As a result, these are the most visited by the travel-weary humming birds (click here to read about other non-traditional humming bird plants).
This year, I am excited to have wax currants in our garden; while attending the Calypso Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society's meeting, I bought three from Catherine Cain of Southwest Montana Native Landscapes and I found out that Kathy Settevendemie of Blackfoot Native Plant Nursery , who was also at the meeting, sells them as well.

The exact date of hummingbird arrival depends on native plants. Hummingbirds follow the blooms of many plant species on their way north to their nesting sites. It is these plants that provide them with the sustenance for their travels and will ensure plenty of food when they court, nest and raise their nestlings. So, hummingbirds are intimately tied to native plants. Just like butterflies, hummingbirds will feed on any flower at certain times, but the timing of the flowering of native plants is critical for them.

Planting firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), or other commonly described "hummingbird" plants may have little benefit to them (click here for more information and plant selections).
So its time to get those feeders ready, but, more importantly, get those native plants ready!

Oh, since my last post, I noticed that one of my favorites, the blue eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora)is in full bloom, and so are kittentails (Synthyris missurica).


  1. Hi Dave - Struggling with Twitter and am not sure if you got my message. I got yours, but it didn't seem to let me send a direct message back to you. Anyway, sorry if you've got four or five of these from me today. Would like to talk to you about birdhouses for the Homes section of the Missoulian I write for. Phone number: 543-7329. Thanks again!

  2. Hi
    I will be in Missoula on Sept 12th - what do you think are the chances of seeing Calliope hummer and Varied thrush?
    Thanks for any information
    Harry G

    1. the odds are probably pretty slim. Calliope males head south in July and the females and juveniles start heading back in August. Varied thrush are probably on their way south, too, but they would be more likely.

    2. I live in Lolo, Montana and I have gorgeous male Calliope at my feeder every time I look out my window! I had a stunning Rufous that spent time in my yard last year and am sad I haven't seen another this year. Their color is so brilliant, they don't seem real! There are lots of females at the feeder, but I can't tell what breed they are. They all look the same to me. I've studied photos of females and I just can't see the differences.