Hummingbirds Love Zinnias!
Every summer I travel to the Midwest to visit my family. One of my favorite things to do is to photograph in my mom's backyard garden. Always a work in progress, each year brings some old familiar plants that reemerge each spring, as well as new ones that she introduces by seed and or from local nursery transplants. This year, she planted two patches of zinnias from seed in early May - one with multi-colored blooms and the other with pink blooms. By the time of my visit in mid-August, the blooms were either at their peak or had faded, though I did spot a few new buds making a late appearance.
Since getting my parents hooked on backyard birding, they feed and watch their visitors, too. When I arrived in town, my mom reported that among her regular visitors was a hummingbird. I haven't had many in my yard in Northern Virginia, which left a gap in my backyard bird photo collection. So I readied my camera and quietly waited. It didn’t take long for one to show up.
Its prime feeding spot were the zinnia patches. It buzzed from one bloom to the next poking its long, slender beak into the center to extract the nectar. So distracted was the little flutterer that it took awhile for it to notice I was there, allowing me to fire off numerous frames. Voracious eaters that they are, due to their high metabolism, it returned regularly throughout the morning and afternoon, around every 20 minutes or so. Though I later discovered that there were actually two hummingbirds in her yard, they rarely visited the zinnia patches at the same time.
I found it interesting that although my mom has a hummingbird feeder filled with nectar just a few feet away, they preferred feeding from the zinnias.
While photographing them throughout the week, I noticed that the hummingbirds were not the only zinnia lovers - there were monarch butterflies and American goldfinches, too. The monarchs also sip the nectar, along with swallowtails.
And the goldfinches pick off the petals to reach the seeds inside, alternating between the zinnias and expiring purple coneflowers.
Next year I will plant some zinnias from seed as my mom did. Not only are the seed packs inexpensive, but after observing how they preferred the flowers over the feeders, I may be able to reduce the amount of nectar that I would normally purchase. And best of all, when I leave town and my feeders go empty, the hummingbirds will still be well-fed from the zinnia nectar, keeping my garden doors open for business all summer long.