It's not enough to have a hummingbird feeder or hummingbird flowers if you want to meet the needs of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris). Provide shelter and space, and think dimensionally!

Let's suppose you have a wide-open residential lot with only a hummingbird feeder in the middle. The lot has length and width, but not much else except for the feeder, so you're only providing space in "two dimensions." This isn't enough for RTHUs and doesn't really even provide shelter.

Therefore, you should "think vertically" in the vegetational sense. A Hummingbird Habitat with lots of herbaceous wildflowers is two-dimensional, but if you add to it vertically by installing flowering plants that happen to be shrubs and trees, you're then providing shelter AND space in THREE dimensions. RTHUs will certainly feed from those herbaceous wildflowers, but the shrubs provide shelter from predators and the trees contain space for nesting, perching, and night-roosting.

RTHU may take advantage of other attributes of native flora, as when females collect fluffy plant material from species such as milkweed, sycamore, cottonwood, thistle, dandelion, and cattail. In the absence of these plants, you can also offer unprocessed raw cotton, in which natural oils repel water and allow water to pass through. Never use synthetic materials--especially dryer lint--which mats down when wet and may drown eggs or chicks. (NOTE: A commercial raw cotton product called "Hummingbird Helper" can be used to provide nesting fluff.)

Shelter and space also have a "fourth dimension" that needs to be considered. The fourth dimension is time, of course, and you should indeed provide shelter and space in a way that allows for change over time. For example, there are very few hummingbird flowers that bloom from spring through early fall when RTHUs are present in North America. Thus, you need to plant a four-dimensional Hummingbird Habitat with flowers that bloom in sequence during the entire breeding season, along with other plants that continue to provide all the other nuances of shelter and space as the seasons change.

Put out a feeder, plant a Hummingbird Habitat, AND think dimensionally, and you're likely to have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds all summer long!

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