An Interview With Ross Hawkins Of The Hummingbird Society
In 1996 there were over 300 species of hummingbirds in the New World, with almost 10% ranked as endangered. However, there was no organization dedicated to the survival and benefit of hummingbirds. In response to their declining populations, Ross Hawkins founded The Hummingbird Society. By educating, networking, and sharing resources, this tiny group has had a big impact, much like the birds they work so tirelessly to protect. We visited with Hawkins, who taught us some interesting facts about hummingbirds!
Hummingbirds are North American natives.
They have co-evolved with many of our native plants, making them essential for a healthy ecosystem. When you see a tubular flower shape, think hummingbird! In Central America, there are species of flowers and hummingbirds that are so specialized that the flower fits the bird’s beak exactly. Like a key in a lock, the hummingbird is essential to the success of the plant.
Hummingbirds are the world’s longest distance flyers.
As unbelievable as it may seem, some hummingbirds migrate almost 4000 miles each year between their summer homes and Mexico or Central America. Based on the length of their bodies, they beat out even the albatross for distance covered in body lengths. Good hummingbird habitat can make a difference in survival for them as they must feed frequently.
Hummingbird with Silene regia (Royal Catchfly)
Hummingbirds are great learners.
They will remember favorite plants over the years. Hawkins stated, “If they come once, they’ll return. If you feed them you can start a chain that can last for years.” Native plants also support small insects, which are an important food for hummingbirds, especially when they have young. Plantings that offer a variety of heights offer shelter and places to perch.
You can plant a hummingbird habitat garden!
As gardeners, we are an important link in hummingbirds' survival. As natural meadows and roadside flowers are threatened, hummingbirds will look for new sources of food. One very important feature in a well-designed habitat garden is that there is a season-long supply of blooms. Keeping something in bloom all season long assures that both bees and hummingbirds can find food even if the weather is unusual.